Crucial to good public relations is pitching to a reporter. Effective pitching involves extracting and conveying, in less than 30 seconds the core of any story. Be sure to introduce yourself.
Keys aspects are:
• Building a data base of reporters and their beats.
• Developing a friendly working relationship with a small group of responsive reporters.
• Maintaining and nurturing contacts throughout the year even after the media coverage is over.
• Being friendly, approachable, and accommodating.
Essentials to pitching are:
• Be brief and to the point. Get their attention by highlighting the essence of the story or event.
• Write out the pitch and practice it before contacting the reporter. Jot down all important details. Make an outline to use as reference while you pitch. Cue cards are effective.
• Find out when it is convenient for a reporter to speak to you. Never interrupt when he or she is working towards a deadline. Be considerate.
• Enquire whether the reporter is familiar with your story. If no, then you must explain in detail otherwise be brief.
• Do your research thoroughly. Get all the facts at your fingertips.
• Convey the importance or relevance of the story to a current issue. It can be a bill being passed by Congress, or a hot debate, or new discoveries.
• If you can’t answer a question posed by the reporter accurately, say you will get back with the answer. Never fabricate facts.
• Keep ready: background information, contact numbers for quotes or interviews, photographs, and other resources.
• Maintain a record of which reporters you have pitched to, their response, and progress. This will provide a clear picture of the genre each reporter tackles as well as any special needs they may have.
• If one angle doesn’t work, then rework the storyline. Find angles that will generate an interest.
• Write a distinctive pitch letter. It must grab the attention of the media. Personalize the pitch letter. Rework it to suit the individual needs of each reporter you plan to contact. The letter must be short, informative, and accurate. Stalwarts make sure the pitch letter has:
o A greeting. If you know the reporter well, include a personal message.
o An introduction highlighting the issue and its relevance to the reporter’s beat.
o Details of why the issue is relevant to society. Bring to the fore the long and short term impacts.
o Links to background information as well as opinion makers.
o Suggestions of the action the reporter should consider taking.
o Brief outlines to media coverage and the aspects addressed by different players.
o Listings of all Internet, print, and broadcasting media sources that have covered the story.
o Ready to use contact information---postal addresses, phone numbers, website URLs, as well as email addresses.
• Use the power of the pitch letter to maximize coverage.
• Follow up a pitch letter with an email or phone call. Be sure to nudge the reporter’s memory. Reporters are busy and tend to forget. Maximize the impact, use the 30 seconds well:
o Identify who you are and why you are phoning.
o Determine if the time is suitable. Ask whether you are interrupting something. Alternately ask when you can call.
o Explain that you are familiar with the reporter’s work and the publication.
o Introduce the subject clearly and concisely.
o Establish why readers or viewers will care.
o Ask whether the reporter is interested in the “story.”
A pitch must never be more than a single page and typed or written in legible letters. It must tease the reporter’s mind and pique interest in the tale you want told.