23 Ways to Make a Better Pitch

By | June 14, 2007

There’s been quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing in the light of a recent post by Charles Arthur of The Guardian (original post here; more discussion here) about journalists and PR pitches. So I thought I’d throw in a few ideas of my own, which rapidly expanded to 22 23. (Note to self: never write these in the morning before I’ve eaten.)

  1. Put a link to the product/company’s website in the press release or pitch. Really.
  2. Don’t duplicate the pitch (your contact list should be pruned of any duplicates, whether they’re different email addresses or not). It looks poor to get lots of emails from the same person. One email, one pitch.
  3. Make sure your contact list and press releases are geographically sound: Not everyone, amazingly, lives in the U.S. and cares about Texas.
  4. Drop the lame intros and get to the point.
  5. Leave out industry jargon.
  6. Don’t bury the significance or drown it in longwinded subordinate clauses.
  7. If you’re going to offer “an expert” to comment on a news event, be upfront about any possible conflicts of interest. We’ll find them eventually and we won’t be impressed.
  8. Don’t offer to write our story for us. It’s frankly insulting.
  9. If we try out your client’s product and have negative feedback, don’t take offense or try to persuade us otherwise. Instead ask permission to pass it onto the client. We like to think we’re experts, and while we’re probably not, getting into a debate about it with anyone less than someone big from the company is unlikely to sway us.
  10. Don’t try to win us over with the line “your rival has written about us! Maybe it’s time for you to!” It reveals only your ignorance about how journalism works.
  11. Put contact details on the press release that are helpful, including time zones. IM and Skype are legitimate communication tools: offer them. (But don’t pitch via them unless you know the reporter well enough.)
  12. Don’t leave out important information, such as the imminent launch of a new product in the range that will make the review of the soon-to-be-obsolete model we’re working on look silly.
  13. Don’t follow up with phone calls or a reminder email if you don’t get a reply to a pitch. If you don’t get a reply assume we’re not interested. Know how many press releases and pitches we get per day?
  14. If we do reply with interest, please respect our deadlines, time zones and preferred medium of communication. We’re not prima donnas (well a bit) but there’s a reason why we give this information. Whole days can get lost if you don’t understand that the whole world is not on Seattle’s timezone.
  15. If we request a particular expertise or subject, keep your pitch to that subject. It wastes everyone’s time to have to read through pitches that begin “I know you asked for an expert to comment on polar bears, but would be you be interested in talking to one of my clients about athlete’s foot?”
  16. Similarly, please don’t try to force a pitch to fit a request. “Your request for comment on polar bears made me think of my client Bob who doesn’t know anything about polar bears, but once went on holiday to Finland, which has lots of snow. He could comment on how snow is white, like polar bears.”
  17. Don’t think that writing a pitch as if it’s a done deal is going to make it any more likely to result in a sale: “When is a good time to set up a phoner with my client?”
  18. Never, never, call us out of the blue. Especially in the middle of the night. (Second reminder: not everyone in the world is on Seattle time.)
  19. If someone leaves your company make sure their email address patches through to whoever took over their job/accounts. Don’t let the email bounce back.
  20. Make sure you, and your clients, have updated About/Press pages that let us find contacts quickly and easily. And email addresses, too, please. No just offering a phone number, or a lame email form.
  21. If we do contact you out of the blue with a request, do please respond with more than a press release. Chances are our request doesn’t fit exactly what you’re working on, but that shouldn’t stop you from helping us, even if it’s only passing us on to someone else who might be better suited to help us.
  22. If such a request does not fall in your geographic area, don’t just leave the reporter hanging. (That’s you, Sony!)
  23. Not every request is going to follow exactly your launch and publicity schedule. Roll with it. The important thing is getting some coverage.

2 thoughts on “23 Ways to Make a Better Pitch

  1. Julie V.

    Great tips. As a former reporter and now a PR professional I totally get it, especially #8 and #13.


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