The pitch. If you are a PR person, you know it's an essential part of the job.
So how come so many PR people put so little time into thinking about how they're going to pitch their story?
I spent three years assessing pitches every day as Director of News at Sky News NZ. This week I'm going to share what I observed at every stage of the process, starting with the email pitch.
I hope my insights help you to think strategically about how you're approaching journalists with story ideas.
The email pitch
The first thing to understand about the email pitch is the sheer volume of emails journalists get, the deadline pressures they are under, and the impact those factors have on their attention span.
The journalists responsible for monitoring emails get HUNDREDS of emails a day. In my experience, they generally make an instant assessment about whether to open it by looking at the subject line.
That means your subject line needs to be smoking hot.
The subject line
The subject line needs to be a headline that tells the journalist everything they need to know; who is talking, what they say, and how it relates to the news agenda of the day. "CEO comments" is not a good subject line. "ABC CEO Stan Jones vows to address complaints" is a better headline.
Once you've got the journalist to open the email, the next challenge is what to put in the body.
The body should be structured like a news story with the most important information at the top. Sentences should be short and active, quotes should be the same. Three paragraphs is plenty. The contact details should be clearly laid out at the base.
Importantly, the body should be contained in the actual email, NOT as an attachment.
Lots of pitches and releases contain beautifully crafted attachments with vital details like contact numbers and maps to get to venues.
The trouble is, attachments are another step the journalist needs to take to read your message. Remember, they are often multi-tasking and get easily distracted by phone calls, editors, breaking stories and so on. Make it easy for them.
They look pretty, but they can be frustrating for journalists, because they are hard to copy and paste into a diary system. Put all those details in PLAIN text in the body of the email.