If you’ve clicked on this post, there’s probably something about PR that doesn’t sit quite right with you at the moment.
It could be that you run your own business – or have been asked to take on ‘PR’ in your job – and the idea of pitching journalists makes you feel a bit, well, salesy.
Perhaps you’ve worked in PR for a while and are fed up with journalists saying ‘no’ – or completely ignoring – your press releases.
Or maybe you used to be a journalist and feel icky about the idea of ‘pitching’ people (or types of people) who used to be your colleagues.
Whatever your reason, there’s nothing wrong with feeling the way you do.
But it can get in the way of success.
You see when you’re feeling’ icky’ about PR, it often comes across in your pitching and here are some of the telltale signs:
You’re apologetic, starting pitches with phrases like ‘I’m sorry to bother you’ or’ I hope you don’t mind me contacting you.’
You’re half-hearted: you don’t research your target publications/programmes as thoroughly as you should or take the time find out the name of the exact person who can make a decision about whether to run your story.
You overcomplicate things: you struggle to nail your ‘top line’ and end up writing long, rambly pitches that don’t really make sense.
All of which screams to a journalist: ‘I don’t really believe in my idea’.
And if you don’t believe in your idea, why should they?
Pitching is as much about mindset as your actions. So if you want to improve your pitching success, you need to change what you think as well what you do.
Remind yourself that you’re helping journalists
Journalists start every day, week or month (depending on their kind of publication/programme they’re working on) with a BIG problem: space to fill and nothing to fill it with.
So when you pitch an idea, you’re actually offering a solution to that problem. One that could save them time, stress, keep their boss off their back or allow them to leave the office a bit earlier.
In the case of freelancers, your idea could even mean hard cash: to pay the mortgage, buy a new handbag, go on holiday or something else that improves their life.
When you approach pitching with that mindset (as opposed to the pleading, begging, persuading mindset most people adopt) you’ll immediately feel more confident – which will come across in your pitches.
Only pitch ideas you believe in
Of course feeling more confident is not enough.
If you want to solve journalists’ problems you need to offer them content that is a perfect fit for their audience.
And you can only do this if you invest time in researching the publications/programmes you’re pitching to in detail (which means analysing the content over a number of week/months) so you can get a feel for the kind of ideas they’re interested in (and what they’re not).
Clients often tell me that they don’t have time to do this, but if you skip this step you’ll waste more time in the long run pitching stories journalists aren’t interested in.
Other clients tell me that they are under pressure from colleagues to pitch stories they know journalists won’t be interested in. Although I sympathise, there is usually down to a lack of understanding of the media. And there is a lot you can do to raise awareness amongst colleagues over time – from asking questions like ‘have you seen an article like this in the x publication recently?’, showing them examples of the kind of coverage their competitors are getting to external training (like What Journalists Want, for example) and talks from journalists (who will tell it exactly how it is).
When you take the time to develop the perfect story idea – and find exactly the right person to pitch it to – your positivity and enthusiasm will shine through.
And when you feel like that, getting a ‘yes’ can be as simple as a short email or phone call.
If you’re looking for inspiration read: five easy ways to get press coverage for your business or brand.
Nail your top line
If you have a great idea that’s a perfect fit for the publication/programme you’re pitching to, you should have no trouble nailing your ‘top line’ (a sentence that summarises your story – ideally in ten words or less).
If you need inspiration, just look at some headlines for similar stories in your target publication/programme.
Your ‘top line’ (or a shortened version of it) should be in your email subject header and the first line of your email pitch (if not the second at the very latest).
And avoid clever language or puns; if journalists don’t have a clue what your story is about, they probably won’t even open your email.
When you’re clear on your idea – and can express it handful of words (instead of paragraphs) – you start having conversations with journalists – not sales calls. Not only will this boost your confidence – it will also help you negotiate: on publication dates, exclusives and URL links, for example.
You may also like: how to do PR when you’re an introvert and six mind hacks that will help you get more press coverage.