The saying “time is of the essence” is especially true for a reporter. There are not enough hours in the day for reporters to focus on each email they receive. Lucky for me, I recently attended a lecture by Pierpont Vice President Chris Wailes, who has more than 25 years of national media relations experience. His presentation focused on pitching to the media and how changes in technology have impacted the process.
Wailes has coped first hand with the evolution of technology within the media relations field, and he has successfully adjusted his career to it. In the early 1990s, the only way a person could pitch a story to the media was via phone or mail. Today, there are numerous new ways to pitch a story, such as email, social networking and cell phones.
One of the most common ways to pitch today is via email. Although email usually seems less formal than phone or mail, you must still follow best practices and protocol. Here are few tips I learned from Wailes’ presentation when pitching via email.
• Subject Line: Be personal and be creative. Watch out for broad, spam-like subject lines, such as “I thought this would interest you” or “read please” – they will easily be sent to the trash folder!
• Research: Know your reporter and what he or she has written about recently. Prove to the reporter that you have done your research in the first paragraph. Pitch to their beat and maybe a mention a recent story they did.
• White Space – 200 words maximum: Think of the reporter as your audience. Just like writing a news story, a pitch should have short paragraphs and plenty of white space. Bullets won’t hurt. If a reporter opens an email filled with writing and lacks white space, they will move on to the next email.
• Be Direct: Don’t skip around the point with an overload of useless details. A pitch should be short and sweet. The key is not to write the story for them; get the reporter interested and give them a reason to call you for more information.
• Invite: Why not finish the pitch with an invite to lunch? Many reporters, like most of us, enjoy a reason to get out of the office and have a cup of coffee. It is an easy and direct way to end the pitch, plus it adds a personal touch.
• Attachments: Do not include attachments. The chances of he/she reading a pitch is slim, and so the chances of him/her opening an attachment is basically non-existent. Tip: If something extra must be included, paste it under the email signature.
Although these tips may seem small, together they can make a drastic difference in any pitch.