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Seven tips for PR pitching — from someone on the other side of the fence

The following post by Katie Schutrop can be found on Katie in Minneapolis, a blog aimed at public relations and communications professionals in the Twin Cities.
Last October, I took a job at KARE 11 handling marketing, events and social me

The following post by Katie Schutrop can be found on Katie in Minneapolis, a blog aimed at public relations and communications professionals in the Twin Cities.

Last October, I took a job at KARE 11 handling marketing, events and social media for their entertainment site Metromix.com. It’s a fun position because I get to wear not only a public relations hat, but also one of a media professional.

On a daily basis, I get to sift through media requests, press releases and coordinate with PR professionals both locally and nationally. In a way, I’m now that person I was trying to reach everyday when working as a publicist at my previous gig.

Since sifting through pitches from PR professionals is now part of my everyday routine, I’ve noticed that certain best practices I thought were common knowledge throughout the industry don’t always shine through. Based on what has landed in my inbox, here are a few tips I’d like to pass along to folks looking to improve their pitches to members of the media:

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1. The newsroom really does operate on a last-minute basis.
I always thought when a producer said, “We’ll get back to you,” it was their way of saying no. That’s not the case. Oftentimes what gets included in a newscast is decided on at the eleventh hour. But don’t be afraid to follow-up once or twice (maybe three times, depending on how far out you pitch). And don’t take it personally if your story gets scrapped at the last minute. That’s just the way it goes.

2. Personalize your pitch.
You’ve heard it before, but take the time to personalize your message. A pitch addressed to my name will get my attention over one titled “hello” or something generic.

3. Most important details first.
Put your pitch and event/product details in the body of the email. It sounds simple, but it can make a world of difference in whether or not your press release gets looked at. I’ve received a handful of pitches where the e-mail message reads, “Hey — we’ve got an exciting event coming up. See the attached press release for details.” That’s just plain lazy. Lay out all the important details up front.

4.  Speak the language.
Not all stations, publications and blogs are treated equal. For example, Metromix  is aimed at a young, social, sometimes edgy demo. Our language is different from what you’ll read in the Business Journal. Make sure your tone matches the pub you’re pitching to.

5. Learn the lay of the land.
College kids: if your goal is to work in PR and you have an interest in media relations, an internship at an agency is great — but an internship at a media organization is even better. Talk about giving yourself an edge in terms of making contacts and learning how a media organization operates. Bringing that experience back to a PR company is invaluable and will inevitably help you pitch stories in the future. Which leads to the next tip…

6. Know the lingo.
I won’t go into detail about this because Bridget Jewell just wrote a great post on the PR Revolution blog listing common terms broadcast journalists use everyday. They’re important to know when working with journos.

7. Network!
I can’t tell you how many times a potential story was looked at more closely because the reporter had a personal connection to the person pitching. Heck, I’ve even gotten some stories on air that were pitched to me by people I know. It really does make a difference if you know someone in the news department. Knowing someone doesn’t guarantee your story will make it on air, but it certainly helps.

Share your PR tips in the comment section below.

Katie Schutrop is a Minnesota native working as a marketing and social media coordinator for Metromix Twin Cities/KARE 11 TV. She is the founder of Young Professional Communicators – Twin Cities (YPCTC), a networking group of new professionals in the communications industry. You can find her blogging at Katie in Minneapolis and tweeting under @kshoop.