No matter how the industry changes, one key skill PR professionals need to know is pitch writing. Although you may be able to write a quality pitch by following a format, capturing the attention of a journalist whose inbox is saturated with similar content can be difficult. We sat down with Senior Account Executive, Brian Sherry, who shed some light on what it takes to elevate your pitch writing to the next level. In our conversation we found three Ps to keep in mind when writing a pitch:
When consulting a guide to writing a pitch one of the first things it will tell you about is the importance of a “hook” – or the news story that the pitch addresses or references. This is true, of course; the beginning (intro and subject line) must wrap everything up in one engaging sentence and grab reporters’ attention. However, once you have their attention you must keep it. Being too wordy and explaining too much is a key pitfall many people fall into. It’s important to remember that your goal is to inspire an article derived from the interview, research, etc. That you’re pitching, not writing it. “Explain enough to be interesting without sharing too much,” said Brian, “You have a limited amount of the reporter’s attention. Try to be brief while making every sentence impactful.” Remember that quality is better than quantity.
Employment of news analysts, reporters, and journalists are projected to decline 9 percent from 2021 to 2031, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The decreasing number of journalists in the industry means more competition for PR professionals. One way to get ahead is to add a personal touch to your pitch or overall media strategy. “One thing I wish I knew when I first started pitch writing was the importance of adding more emotion to my writing,” said Brian. Writing a pitch to inform does not mean it needs to lack emotion. Adding emotion can help your content feel more engaging and interesting to the reporter.
Additionally, personalizing your pitch can help your writing stand out. Letting the reporter know you follow their content or liked one of their recent articles can go a long way. Not only is this a compliment to the reporter, but it also showcases that you have put thought into who you are pitching and will most likely present something of interest that ties into their work.
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that whatever you’re pitching is inherently newsworthy. However, this isn’t always the perception for reporters. As a PR professional it’s your job to find what makes whatever you’re pitching relevant and communicate it effectively so that others are interested.
Regardless of what you are pitching (news outlet, blog, podcast, etc.), in order for your pitch to be effective it must first serve a purpose. Ask yourself, does this fulfill the needs of a reporter? Is it relevant and timely? What am I offering that’s valuable to the ongoing conversations around this issue? Keeping your purpose in mind will not only allow you to be more intentional in your messaging but also help you grow relationships with reporters. “There have been cases where reporters will have changed news outlets and reached out to let me know,” said Brian. “This is because I have positioned myself as a good resource for information and expert commentary.” Doing this requires keeping up with the news and the trends and ideas being written about. Using timely topics to drive your pitching will make it easier to better understand the purpose you are fulfilling and know what information you need to prioritize.
By trying to make each word impactful, making personal connections and leading with emotion and purpose, you can make your pitches stand out. Pitch writing is a skill that needs to be developed through experience and ongoing learning. However, these three Ps can really elevate your writing to the next level.