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Five tips for pitching success

Pitching a story to the media is an imperfect science. It’s dependent on some known and unknown variables and can be a frustrating process as some pitches hit the mark and others disappear into the ether without a trace. Some of the variables we can recognise. For example, if there’s a major breaking news story a seemingly well-targeted and perfectly crafted pitch can often be overlooked – relegated to the “to-do” list or may be forgotten. Perhaps your target media has a similar story already in train or has published something similar recently. Maybe the journalist or editor is “under the pump” and while your story might be worthy of covering under different circumstances, they just don’t have the time for it. These are variables we can’t control and shouldn’t over-analyse. It pays to have a thick skin when making media pitches, as rejection or worse, being ignored, can be difficult to stomach.

But there are some factors you can control and with a little research and know-how they greatly improve your chances of success. Here’s five tips for pitching success.

  1. Know your target media and make sure your pitch is going to the right journalist and media outlet. Research the media and journalist you’re pitching to. Does the story align with previous stories? Can you pitch your story as a follow-up or analysis of something previously covered? Does your story suit the demographic of your target media? Have the answers to all of these questions before you hit send.
  2. Wherever possible, make sure you address the pitch personally, to the appropriate editor, journalist or producer. It takes more time to create a personalised pitch but it’s worth the extra effort and has a much greater chance of being looked at if it’s directed personally and it’s not just a generic, “Hi there” email.
  3. Get to the point. The media don’t have time to consume your three page attachment with screeds of words, graphs and data. Your email subject line should give the media a clear idea of what they’re going to get in the body of the email. Hit them with the gist of the story in the first sentence. Give them bullet points and reasons why they and their audience will care about your story.
  4. Don’t try to sell a product or service. Unless your product or offering is revolutionary or is created for the common good, most media will ask the question – “Why don’t you buy commercials?” Medical breakthroughs, products that potentially save lives, (eg shark deterrents) or services that fill a real community need might be considered, so it’s not a blanket rule.
  5. Have a case study. It’s all very well to have a story to tell about how you, your service or product has made a significant difference to the well-being of average Australians but if you don’t have a case study to illustrate it, most media will baulk at pursing it. Make it easy for them. Provide a case study that backs up your story. Give them pictures, audio or vision they can use.

By John Solvander, Director of Media Engagement, Media Stable.

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