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Writing an Effective Media Pitch (+ 5 Mistakes to Avoid)

Your chance to get published in the media is only one email away.

With 93% of journalists preferring bespoke approaches with story pitches, email is the best PR tool for connecting with your ideal media outlets. The challenge lies in creating the right message.

The key to landing media coverage is to send carefully crafted pitches to specific journalists with an interest in your story’s topic.

When a pitch hits a journalist’s inbox, they spend about 5-10 seconds deciding whether or not to publish a story. Your message is your opportunity to make a strong first impression that resonates with journalists. In this post, we’ll walk through what to include in your pitch and what to avoid.

Caption: Wall with many layers of posters ripped up and faded away.
Caption: A wall with many layers of posters ripped up and faded away.

What to include in your media pitch

Send pitch emails with press releases to individual journalists who you’ve carefully selected. Make sure each pitch includes the following:

1. Punchy subject line

Not sure how to write an attention-grabbing subject line? Next time you’re in your inbox, pay attention to the emails that make you want to click “open”. Use what you find for inspiration as you’re coming up with your own subject lines. But be careful - don’t be too salesy or cheesy, as it’ll turn the journalist off immediately.

2. Personalised message

Always greet the journalist by their name and ask how they’re doing. How would you feel if you received an email that started with “Greetings” or “To Whom It May Concern”? Nothing will get your email into the trash folder faster.

3. A short introduction

Remember the last time you were excited to read an email with a 10-line introduction paragraph? Me neither...

When I say “short” introduction, I mean short. Write a two-line intro to your press release. Summarise your story and explain why it’s relevant to the outlet and its audience.

4. Share a link to high-resolution images and video

Load up your high-resolution images (minimum of 1mb) or videos to a sharing platform like WeTransfer, Dropbox or Google Drive. Then, paste that link under your intro, explaining that the content can be downloaded. Beware: the free versions of the first two have links that expire after a few days which could stop a journalist from running your story.

5. Paste your press release directly into your message

Paste your press release directly into your email to make everything easier on the journalist. If you’ve never written a press release before, here’s a guide – with some helpful resources to make life easier.

Caption: Two women wearing yellow sports clothes are drinking water from a box that says: "boxed water is better."
Caption: Two women wearing yellow sports clothes are drinking water from a box that says: "boxed water is better."

Five common mistakes to avoid in your media pitch

When sending a pitch to journalists, you want to make sure your pitch has been carefully crafted and researched ahead of time. Here are a few mistakes you will want to avoid:

1. Sending a generic message

Your pitch needs to be personalised to the publication or outlet. Generic messages and pitches that don’t align with publications will be passed up for a more relevant story.

2. Making it all about you

Yes, we’re talking about spreading the message about your incredible work. We want more people to know about the impact you’re having so they can join your cause, purchase your sustainable product, or become more passionate about purpose-led businesses.

And yes, you’re the mastermind (and utterly brilliant!). But you should be thinking about what you have to offer others. What solution, benefit, or knowledge will the audience get from your story? How will the publication’s readers or podcast listeners be inspired or informed? In what ways will you move them to act?

Take your story and frame it in a way that aligns with the audience’s interests by asking yourself: Why will they care? How can I make them connect with my story? When you spell that out to journalists, they’ll be able to see how your story connects, too.

3. Pitching at the wrong time

Pitching isn’t only about sending the right message to the right journalist. It’s all about timing. Most publications start picking up stories at different times of the month or year, so do some research. Find out the lead time for each publication and make sure your pitch aligns with their deadlines.

Always send your pitch in advance. Let’s say you run a charity and you’re launching a programme around Valentine’s Day to spread some love in your community. Great! Let’s get you some traction. Don’t wait until two days before Valentine’s Day to send your pitches though! Give journalists enough time to plan their coverage.

4. Not being punchy or catchy enough

When your subject lines and messages aren’t memorable or punchy, you run the risk of being passed up by journalists. Send a test email to yourself and put yourself in the shoes of the journalist. How will they feel when they come across your message?

5. Including poor quality photos or assets

Think about how you feel when you see a blurry or low-quality photo. It’s a little unsettling, right?

When it comes to leaving a positive first impression on journalists, you want to leave no room for discomfort. Pixelated photos or blurry videos could mean your email ends up in the trash folder. Journalists need to feel confident in you and your story before they decide to reply, so the last thing you want to do is make them feel unsettled.

Here’s the fix:

Make sure your photos and videos are linked, instead of attached to your email or copied in the body of your email. This will help you preserve the quality of your digital assets. Plus, you’ll ensure your message won’t be too big to land in the inbox of journalists. It’s a win-win all around.

Caption: A woman with a big camera is taking a picture of a table filled with fresh and colourful food.
Caption: A woman with a big camera is taking a picture of a table filled with fresh and colourful food.

You’ve got this!

You’ll never feel ready the first time you do anything, so challenge yourself to start your PR journey even if you’re feeling scared. Gather your PR materials, make a list of your ideal media outlets, and start pitching.

If this still seems intimidating, don’t worry. I’m here for you and I have resources to help you kickstart your PR journey. Get insider PR tips in my free webinar: How to Pitch Your Story to Journalists or download your Beginner’s PR Guide today.

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