Journalists, producers and other media staff are swamped with PR pitches all day long. But they just might open your email, so make it worth their while. A successful pitch gets their attention and lands coverage, and also establishes a relationship between yourself and them. So the next time you’re in their inbox, they’re much more likely to open what you’ve sent.
Our idea of what constitutes a pitch is changing every day. To get the attention of an influencer, you might DM them on Instagram. Or if there’s a journalist who never answers their emails but is active on Twitter, you might contact them there. But an email is still the preferred route by most PR professionals, especially when pitching to traditional media.
And crafting a great email pitch is an art form in itself. No, really. It needs to be brief, but informative. Friendly, but professional. And don’t forget about the follow-ups that come after. If you’re still working on perfecting your pitch, or just need to get inspired by what others are doing, then you’re in the right place.
Below, you’ll find examples of successful pitches from three PR professionals: Vanita Thind, Samiha Fariha, and Mimi Roy. They also explain their thought process behind each pitch in their words.
With these real examples of their successful pitches, as well as their insights, you’ll understand how to land a story.
Vanita Thind – PR & Social Marketing Specialist, Kira Systems
Vanita is a PR & Social Marketing Specialist at Kira Systems, a contract review and analysis software company based in Toronto. Earlier this August, she pitched a timely and relevant study on the impact of bankruptcy on a company’s intellectual property to a journalist who covers bankruptcies and distressed debt for The Wall Street Journal.
The journalist went on to include the study in her article. From this point on, they established a relationship that led to another Kira study being mentioned in a second article.
Subject: How bankruptcy impacts a company’s IP
I recently read your article on the bankruptcy sale of Pier 1 Imports’ intellectual property (IP) and e-commerce business, and how it is an important source of cash for distressed companies.
We released a study on this; it examines the impact of bankruptcy on IP and how it affects the business’s overall value, and the value of the assets that become available to creditors. To mitigate bankruptcy-related risks, parties need to understand the consequences of insolvency and the impact on their IP—whether as a licensor, licensee, or purchaser of intellectual property assets.
Let me know if this could be an interesting story for you and/or if you are looking for an SME to speak on this for any upcoming articles. The study can be found here.
The thought process:
The subject line needs to pique their interest and should be simple and to the point. I find that using numbers or the word “how” really helps. In the end, a subject line is the most important part of your pitch, it determines if the reporter will open your email. A/B testing is useful when it comes to media outreach. Also, avoid symbols (as the email could end up in their spam folder) and don’t include words that are a waste of space (interview opportunity, etc.).
In my pitch, I used a customized intro and referenced the reporter’s previous work. If you’re sending a pitch to a reporter, do your homework. They will wonder why you’re reaching out to them and it’s important to explain how the coverage would be in the reporter’s self-interest. You can do this by referencing their earlier work and how you can add to the story.
Then, you need a compelling story angle: you still need to focus on sharing something that is newsworthy. Avoid being self-promotional and focus on why your story angle could be beneficial to the reporter and their audience.
End your email by providing assets and a call to action. Tell the reporter what you want (i.e. an interview), and share supporting assets (i.e. a study, video, infographic, etc.)
Everyone values relevant research and data-driven insights, including prospects, customers, and journalists. For us, we create these big rock content initiatives by leveraging Kira to bring new insights to the market that are relevant to the topics of today.
Samiha Fariha – Account Executive, Torchia Communications
Samiha is an Account Executive at the strategic communications firm, Torchia Communications. Media relations is a large part of her role, which includes pitching, building media lists and following up with media via phone and email. Below, you’ll find two successful pitches she used to garner coverage for her clients.
In this first pitch, Samiha reached out to Canadian news outlets on behalf of Youth Science Canada, a non-profit that supports youth access and engagement with scientific pursuits. As a result of this pitch, the story ran on CTV Your Morning Live, CityNews at 6 and the Making a Difference show with Susan Hay. This “Making a Difference” spot was picked up by several other media outlets.
Subject: Segment Idea: X-year-old [Name] develops advanced wearable aid for visually impaired individuals
Good morning XX,
X-year-old [Name] from Toronto is one of this year’s top students at the Canada-Wide Science Fair for his most inspiring and ingenious STEM project. [Name] has developed an advanced wearable aid that provides blind and visually impaired individuals greater spatial perception through tactile feedback.
[Name] has won several awards for his project including: Platinum Award for Best Senior Project, Youth Can Innovate Awards, Gold Medal in his Category (Senior), Challenge Award in Innovation, Ted Rogers Innovation Award and a trip to the European Union Contest for Young Scientists.
[Name] is available for interviews to discuss how his project can help visually impaired individuals, how it benefits society and what inspired him to come up with this wearable aid. If you are interested in having [Name] on any upcoming segment, please let us know.
The thought process:
Media outlets are often attuned to innovation and areas related to new, STEM-related technology and trends coming down the pike. Having a youthful and vivacious spokesperson, backed by a bonafide non-profit (Youth Science Canada), and we had many of the ingredients needed for success.
Based on that, we needed to aim for simplicity and clarity of messaging—basically word economy: getting the story out fast and with a solid level of service. In addition, media outlets certainly appreciate learning about precocious Canadian teen scientists who are doing innovative work—especially if it helps make people’s lives easier.
When we distributed the pitch to our targeted media, the pitch was very clear, it highlighted the success of the student very well and we offered compelling story angles for the media to consider for their upcoming segment.
For this second pitch, Samiha was seeking interviews for James Juhasz, the Canadian sailor and Olympic hopeful, to talk about his unconventional training schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pitch was distributed to TV, radio and print/web media outlets and received a lot of interest. The top coverage secured for this pitch was Breakfast Television and two radio interviews on AM 770.
Subject: STORY IDEA: Olympic hopeful avoids idling while out of the waters
Good morning XX,
Under normal circumstances, Canadian sailors like James Juhasz would be knee deep in Canadian freshwaters, practicing and tinkering with their craft.
Today, 300 kms from his laser class sailboat, James is forced to prepare using other means due to COVID-19 – everything but the real things. No water access. No boat.
From his home in Oakville, Ontario, in confinement, James is happy to speak with you – to discuss his non-conventional training regimen, his Olympic aspirations for Paris 2024, his next competitions and outlook.
If you are interested, we’d be happy to connect you with James for a preliminary chat or provide you with more info or book him for an interview for your upcoming story.
The thought process:
The pitch was effective because it was timely. During the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, the media was interested in covering COVID related news from different angles. We offered them a sports-related story such as how COVID-19 was affecting young athletes and disrupting their training schedules and their major sports competitions.
The pitch we sent to the media had strong story angles and had a young spokesperson and because of these components, many media outlets were interested in interviewing James for their story.
Mimi Roy – Communications Account Executive, Gage Communications
Mimi is a Communications Account Executive for Gage Communications, a full-service public relations and digital marketing agency based in Toronto. She recommends being personable and succinct in your pitch, and tie the story to a news hook if you can—especially when pitching to Canadian news outlets such as CBC, CTV and Global.
Mimi was pitching a medical expert to a radio producer while the COVID-19 pandemic was ongoing. The story was covered on a live radio segment with AM640 where the host interviewed the expert.
I am sending a COVID pitch that might be a fit with the current news cycle. It’s about Canadians who need healthcare as non-COVID patients. See the pitch below:
In our attempt to flatten the curve of COVID-19, we have proactively reduced health services by cancelling doctors’ appointments, rescheduling non-essential surgeries, and selectively admitting patients into hospitals and clinics. As a result, patients already in the system may fear – or find – they have significantly reduced access to care.
During this uncertain time, Canadians have important questions about their healthcare: How can I access the care I need for myself and my family? What are the next steps? Who can I call to help?
[Expert] is Canada’s foremost expert in healthcare navigation.
- Offer her top three tips to effectively use our healthcare system to its full potential, even while it’s being overwhelmed with a public health crisis
- Point patients and their families to helpful online information and resources
- Offer advice to patients who are feeling afraid, lost and/or frustrated by a lack of access to care
Would Barb be interested in speaking to [Expert] on the program? Let me know if it’s a fit.
The thought process:
This was a cold pitch to a radio producer with AM640 The Night Side.
I researched the show and knew the host interviews experts about educating consumers. This is a long-form pitch because sometimes in healthcare PR, there are key messages you can’t afford to leave out. And this isn’t always the case but the pitch was approved by the client before sending it.
When it’s a cold pitch, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself. Sometimes I even say, “I hope you don’t mind me reaching out cold.” Next, provide what the article would be about and give the journalist all the info they need to know. Name the expert if you have one and mention why they are qualified and what they bring to the article. End with a simple sign off such as “Let me know if this works for what you are looking for.”
The pitch was successful in part because the beat was tied to COVID-19. And in the pitch, I provided the “problem” the segment would cover, the expert who could address the problem and what the speaking points would include.
While all of these successful pitches have very different angles, the approach taken by these three professionals is similar.
Here are some key takeaways:
- Research the angles covered by the media outlet or journalist you’re pitching to
- Find a newsworthy angle for your story, if possible
- Follow up if you don’t hear back
Timing is important, and so is finding the right outlet for your story rather than just any outlet. Some PR professionals are trapped by the expectation they should be pitching for their clients every day, even when the opportunity isn’t right. That just results in mass-pitching, and it’s hard to put in your best effort when you’re sending out so many. You will be ignored and rejected, and that outlet or journalist may go on ignoring you from that point forward.
It’s not uncommon to be driven by an ambitious need to secure coverage and get that “win” for your client or agency. But remember the quality of the pitch and the relationship you establish with the outlet or journalist will reap greater rewards in the end.
Crafting successful pitches means taking a thoughtful approach where you consider how the story would benefit the outlet and their audience—rather than how landing the story will benefit you.