Pitch Perfect: Crafting a story idea that generates results

September 4, 2014

Every brand dreams of coming up with the magic story pitch that will make every reporter instantly fall in love with it, resulting in a pool of glowing coverage into which it can gracefully swan dive. Well, snap out of it, ‘cuz magic ain’t real.
That’s not to say it’s impossible to craft a pitch that results in multiple pieces of amazing coverage; it is possible. But a solid proactive pitch has become more of an art form, a strategic one that requires the precision of a marksman scoping the bulls-eye from a mile away. The needs of the newsroom are moving targets, as the quest for clicks and eyeballs continues to grow. Such is the challenge that PR professionals face every day.
If your story pitches aren’t hitting their targets, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Here are a few tips that will not only help you craft the perfect pitch, but generate coverage you can be proud of.
Narrow your focus. Forget the spray-and-pray method of pitching (unless your goal is to end up on dozens of reporters’ blacklists). Start with only a handful of targets who are knowledgeable about your industry and will be interested enough in what you have to say that they’ll at least hear you out. This makes your list much more manageable, and you can always expand from here.
Do some reconnaissance. Ever been hit on at a bar, and you just know that same line was used on five other people before you? Reporters get that feeling, too. It’s really not hard to tell when you’re just copying and pasting the same thing into an email over and over again, or reading talking points off a piece of paper. Find out what the reporter has recently written about. Look into what his hobbies and interests are so you can strike up a conversation about how well his favorite sports team is doing or how amazing that last episode of his favorite show was. Make it personal; reporters are people, too.
It’s not me, it’s you: It’s not about what you want (coverage), it’s about what a reporter wants (news). The most important thing to keep in mind when crafting the perfect pitch is the end user: the reader. You don’t need to sell the reporter on your pitch; you need to sell her on why her readers will be into it. With so much competition for readers, reporters are always looking for new and exciting ways to talk about the news and draw in more people. Figure out what’s timely about your pitch, why it’s relevant to what’s going on in the industry or world at large, and how your client can expand on what’s already been said to offer a fresh perspective. Based on your reconnaissance, tailor each pitch to what you know the reporter likes in her sources.
One of the greatest highs a PR professional experiences is nailing that perfect pitch that includes the right combination of newsworthiness, timeliness and personalization that gets attention from reporters. Investing the time and effort up front will pay off in the end, and maybe you’ll be able to take that swan dive after all.
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