Pitching media is an integral part of public relations. In order to secure coverage online, in print, or on TV, you need to share with the powers that be all that your client has to offer, whether it’s a brand-new product, relevant expertise, or other news they can use. But really, the best pitches are the ones that are seen—read: not lost in an editor’s sea of unopened emails.
Research is the foundation of a media pitch. It gives you and your client a better sense of how to best achieve their goals, while also providing the information necessary to pitch the right people at the right publication at the right time (all equally important). From there, the rest falls on your shoulders: Write the pitch, send it off, and follow up until you earn a media placement for your client. Then rejoice in the moment—and share your accomplishment far and wide.
Sounds easier said than done? Not quite. Here, we’ve outlined the lifecycle of a media pitch, guided by real-life examples and tips from PR’s finest.
Brainstorm pitch ideas for different occasions
Before moving forward with a media pitch, take time to meet with your client to understand their wants and needs better. Get an idea for their monthly, yearly, and long-term goals, and see how you can help them reach that by pitching media. In many ways, PR pros act as messengers, informing the media about all that a brand has to offer. Because of this, they “need to be fully prepared for any questions about the life of the product BEFORE they were charged to represent it,” according to Frank Tortorici, director of media relations at Marketing Maven.
Once you understand your client through and through, come up with tactics to help them reach their goals. Amy Ragan Kearns, CEO and founder of Odyssey Public Relations, says that brands will work closely with their public relations team to make sure they are in the know about the latest news, such as upcoming product launches, hotel openings, and investor news. “The PR team will create a pitch calendar that will be utilized for three to six months; anything longer than that time frame risks becoming irrelevant with the ever-changing news cycle,” she explains.
Research the editors you’re sending pitches to
Half the battle of pitching media is getting it in the right hands. Some, like Kearns, believe that the “back-end research of editors and writers you will be sending your pitch to is the most important stage of the lifecycle of a media pitch.” Take plenty of time to update your media database, focusing on editors that cover similar topics or work at publications that fit the brand’s wheelhouse and reach desirable target audiences. Kearns says that every PR pro should ask themselves the following questions before drafting a pitch to an editor: “Did the editor cover similar news recently? Is your pitch or news in your target editor's beats? Do you think the readers of your target editor's publication they write for will find this news valuable?”
Craft a relevant, open-it-as-soon-as-you-see-it pitch
All pitches should have a newsworthy element. Maybe you’re connecting it to current events or social media trends, or perhaps you can even call out how the product you’re pitching has a mega-long waitlist and celebrity fans. Although no two pitches are the same, Lauren Salaun, CEO and founder of influence+IMPACT, recommends that angles stay under 10 sentences while finding a way to connect the brand to “the journalist's or outlet's previous coverage of the topic or related topics.”
Before you hit send, Kearns points out that you should prepare for many common questions. “Make sure you have hi-res imagery to share with editors, product samples, and [that] your client understands that there could be a chance for a follow-up interview and to make time for either an email or phone interview,” she explains.
Schedule the pitch for the most appropriate time
Double-check—triple-check, even—that you have the correct contact information by using tools like Cision, Muckrack, LinkedIn, or even your trusty friend, Google. Then, once you have everything set and ready to go, schedule the pitch for Mondays and Tuesdays, the days that have the highest open rates, according to Salaun’s experience. Keep in mind that our ever-changing world may interfere with your ideal plan; be sure to move around any pitches if significant news breaks and your pitch may be deemed insensitive at that particular time.
This is arguably the most challenging stage of the lifecycle of a media pitch. Given the high volume of pitches that editors receive daily, sometimes your pitches—even the best, most newsworthy ones—will slip through the cracks. But with persistence and the occasional pivot, you will find luck placing your client. If this requires more work on your end (a celebrity or expert interview, for example), give your client a briefing ahead of time to know precisely how to conduct themselves when the time comes. “The worst thing someone can do is assume they know what the editor expects and skip an opportunity to answer because they think their input won't serve the needs of the writer,” Andrea Samacicia Mullan, the founder and CEO of Victory Public Relations, warns.
Follow-up with the editor—not too much, not too little
Ah, the art of the follow-up: Some editors hate it; others appreciate the subtle nudge from time to time. As Salaun points out, there’s a fine line between being annoying and pushy (straight into their trash folder you go) and overly relaxed. Typically, she sends two to three follow-ups within two weeks of the initial email: “If we're sending a pitch on Monday, and we don't hear back, we will usually send a short, polite follow-up message within the same week, maybe Wednesday or Thursday. If we still don't hear anything back, we'll send 1-2 more follow-up messages over the next week or two.”
But sometimes, silence may be an indicator that you need to make a change. “If you don't hear back [after the follow-up], either reformulate your pitch or send it to another contact at that outlet if it's still timely and relevant,” Jen Berson, founder and president of Profitable PR Pros, says.
Leverage any (and all) media wins
You landed the coveted spot in a publication; now what? Milk your win as much as possible. “If your client appears in an online publication, urge them to share to their social media pages,” Kearns suggests. They can also do this on their website by adding a “Coverage” page, compiling all of their press wins on product launches, major news, and so forth in one spot for all to see. This pays off in the long run: “For our clients, helping them highlight their press features allows them to reach new audiences, build more credibility and trust, and generates momentum resulting in even more media placements,” Berson says.