How to Hit a Home Run With Your Email Pitches
You are excited. Your company or organization has a great new story to tell. Perhaps you have a surprising development, a revolutionary product or an amazing tale of generosity, discovery or expertise.
Whatever the story may be, you want to get the news out in a press release to your media contacts right away. Perhaps you write your own pitch or turn to an agency like Kinetic to craft the message. Then you hit “send” and wait for news directors, assignment editors or reporters to beat down your door to learn more about your idea.
And wait. And wait. And wait. Yes, the emails went through. No bounces reported.
What went wrong?
Well, some email pitches flop. They just don’t connect. Perhaps it is a busy news week and your release just doesn’t top the big stories breaking around you. Journalists receive a barrage of story suggestions every week – from their bosses, colleagues and dozens of sources. Time is limited. Maybe it fell through the cracks because of newsroom vacations, technical glitches or questionable judgment.
Maybe what you thought was a big dang deal really isn’t, or the media folks thought it would be more appropriate for you to buy an advertisement to promote your “news announcement” of an event or a product. Whatever the case, your story is still sitting there, waiting to be told.
What can you do to increase the chances that your email pitch will be opened and your story idea will be assigned, reported and published? Here are some tips:
BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR PITCH.
Do you see stories like yours covered by local media? Business or nonprofit pitches involving new construction, expansion, changes in leadership, finances, innovations, etc., will often find a receptive audience. If you are pitching a big sale, a new product line or promotional event, the response may be tepid. That’s more appropriate for an ad, you might hear, if you hear anything back at all.
Know which journalist covers your industry or subject matter. Send your pitch directly to them. If you don’t have that information, find out who serves as the assignment editor.
SEIZE THE MOMENT.
Be timely. What is in the news? If your organization is responding to events happening in the community, perhaps there’s a news hook that a reporter will jump on.
For example, in these days of the pandemic, we’ve seen and heard stories about the surging popularity of Fortnite and other online video games, and parental concerns regarding their addictive qualities. Are kids who are stuck at home spending too much time playing Fortnite? Is their obsession unhealthy? Reports abound of children’s depression, isolation, weight loss, aggressive behavior and stressed-out parents.
If you are in the health care industry, you could pitch a story featuring doctors, therapists or other experts discussing these concerns and how best to deal with them. If you manage a toy store or organize youth clubs, you might suggest a story on other games or activities that might provide a more healthy alternative to online gaming on phones, PlayStations, Xboxes, Switches and other devices.
Reach out to reporters who cover health or parenting and offer your expertise on this timely topic. Don’t miss the window of opportunity. Get your story pitch out while the story is still very much in the current-news bucket.
GET TO THE POINT.
The audience for your pitch is not interested in your flowery prose. If they’ve decided to open your email, that’s huge. Reward their good instincts by revealing your great idea right away. Describe your story angle in clear, crisp language. Provide details in a bulleted format to help them quickly scan your release. Keep it short and to the point and presented in a way to make it easy to assess its news value. Some media outlets that are short on staff might just lightly edit your release and run with it, so make it sing!
Make sure your contact information is prominently displayed. Offer to set up interviews for a story, either in person or by phone.
WHEN TO SEND?
Sending your pitch at the start of the day often yields the best results. Broadcast news directors and publication editors set the table during the first part of the day. They review what their staff is working on, check their emails for interesting tips and build a news budget for the day and continue planning for interesting content for the week ahead.
REMEMBER YOUR CHANNELS.
Don’t forget that YOU are a publisher, too. You can’t rely on local and regional media to always jump on your stories. Produce your own news report for your website. If you need to tweak your website design to accommodate your own “news feed,” then do it! And make sure to remember your social media audience and post on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and other pages.