Understanding what makes good pitches, and what makes bad ones can be a tricky one. The good thing is, most of them are already pretty proficient at developing targeted, smart pitches.
However, sometimes that isn’t enough. Like anyone, the person on the receiving end of your pitch could be having a bad day, swamped with other work, or maybe just be a complete and utter jerk. I’ve learned quickly that pitching can be a thankless job.
Pitching a story or an idea isn’t about a single, one-off transaction. It’s about developing a relationship. Not everything is going to result in an A1 story in The Australian, but if a pitch is smart, the journalist will at the very least listen to what you have to say, now and in the future. I say that from personal experience.
The team at Start Your Own has come up with a list of seven tips for writing pitches that will break through. Some of these might sound obvious, but you can take my word for it, all are important.
Here they are. And if you can think of other ones, feel free to share in the comments.
1. Compelling subject line
Write a compelling subject line that represents your ideal headline or, at the very least, screams to the reporter, “Open me!”
2. Keep all email pitches short
We can’t ask a busy reporter to read hundreds of words. Keep your pitches as brief as possible.
3. Correct Introduction
While it’s fine to begin with “Hi NAME” or “Dear NAME,” dispense with the falsely sociable opening. Please no “I hope this finds you well!” Get right to the point.
4. The first sentence must grab them.
This should be the most interesting and provocative point of the news you’re pitching. Before you write, put yourself in their shoes. Specifically, what’s the most important fact for the reporter and his/her readers? If you’re having a problem identifying what’s most interesting, ask a colleague to give it a once over.
5. Tie your pitch into the news cycle.
Why should the journalist pay attention to your pitch NOW?
6. Sell the idea/product
Whether you’re pitching a brand or an individual expert, tell the journo exactly why this brand/person will be their best source. What are their bona fides?
7. Customize your pitch for the journalist.
This is especially important for top-tier journalists. Spend 5 minutes researching their recent work, make a reference to it and tie it into your news. If you want to tie your pitch to a story the reporter wrote, just mention the story or topic briefly. Otherwise, it looks like you’re trying too hard.