Media pitching is an art form. It’s a skill that PR and marketing professionals spend their careers honing.

And while pitching WELL has never been more important, media relations and pitching in the digital age can feel conflicted. The abundance of blogs, email, and social media has made it easier to be seen, but all this content has also made it more difficult to be noticed.

Don’t confuse the pitch with a media release. Two very different things. The pitch is a short and sweet email to a  journalist or influencer. Similar to an elevator pitch in length, but the ‘angle’ of the pitch is targeted very specifically to the individual journalist or influencer’s interests.

A media release has much more information and can be copy/pasted underneath your pitch email, or attached along with other help documents if the journalist wants to dive deeper.

So how do you make your pitch stand out from the crowd?

Contrary to the belief of most newbie pitch-ers, the best way to stand out isn’t to throw a glitter bomb, offer a free car or insert the words AMAZING, REVOLUTIONARY and STUNNING [or any other fluffy adjectives] into the mix.

The most successful pitches are short, personal, direct and show you have a complete understanding of the journalist and their audience. Yes, it’s that *simple.

Yes, that’s right… the simplest things are often the hardest.

Whether it’s your first time, or you’re the pro that’s continuing to hone their skills, read on for a comprehensive guide to successfully pitching media and building great relationships.

We’ll cover:

  • How to come up with ‘the hook’
  • How to structure a personal pitch email
  • How to be the perfect source
  • How to package a group pitch and think creatively
  • How to get your research right
  • A word on exclusives
  • A word on the ‘follow up’

 

How do I craft my message in a format that gets media excited?

This is the first question journalists will ask themselves (and you!) when pitched a story. What’s the hook that makes this a story worth writing and something journalists will be excited about?

Ask yourself;

Is it something new, exclusive and never seen before?
Is it part of a wider trend?
Is it access that previously hasn’t been granted?
Is it telling us something we don’t know?
Whether it’s pitching talent or a collection, think about the ‘newsiness’ or the ‘newness’.
If the news is a collection launch, what’s the most interesting thing about the collection?

 

Crafting a winning personal email pitch.

The key word here is personal. A generic blanket email pitch generally doesn’t go down well and is much easier to ignore. The usual clunkers – using the wrong name, misspelling a name, pitching a story which clearly shows you’ve never read the publication – are also easy to avoid mistakes.

Do your research. Read the publication you’re pitching your story to. Have an understanding of the kinds of stories they run, their regular sections, the format of their stories. Show you’ve read some of the journalist’s previous work and understand their round. Also, demonstrate you’re across what’s happening in the industry (the movement toward sustainability, the major designer moves in recent years etc.) and use this information to show your credibility, all of which will help to build trust.

Here’s a good example….

“I enjoyed the story you wrote last week on political fashion and wanted to introduce you to my label, Annie Brown.

We’re about to launch our first resort collection which has been made with a new-to-Australia fabric called Wow, created entirely from pressed-juice bottles. We’re part of a movement you would be across in Australia and overseas of brands creating elevated minimal pieces with a sustainable practice and I hoped you might be interested in profiling our business and speaking to the trend?

We can offer you exclusive images, interview access to Annie Brown and our CEO Eleanor Brown and the first run on the campaign shots.”

 

The easier you make it the better the chance you’ll be featured or included in a round-up or trend story. 

Like everybody else, journalists are busy. If you make their life easier by including product details, any relevant docs that support your pitch [remember – no waffle!], required high res images, Flaunter links, and price and stockist details so the journalist doesn’t need to call and check them, you will be appreciated.

Be super responsive if a journalist asks for details or has queries – often PR’s can be quick to pitch something and then slow in responding on the details.

Offering up relevant talent or an expert for the journalist to speak to.

If the journalist has a regular page or feature, think about how your story, collection or designer could fit in with this and pitch with plenty of lead time.

 

Be realistic … and creative.

A story focussing on a single brand will generally only be written if there’s something exciting to say – the brand arriving in Australia, an incredible collaboration, an anniversary, elusive talent that nobody has spoken to before.

So instead think about how you frame your story. Could it be part of a wider trend story, including other brands? Could your brand fit into one of the publications’ regular sections?

 

Know your target.

One surefire way to annoy a journalist is to pitch them a story that makes it clear you’ve never read the publication they write for or are not familiar with the journalist’s byline/the round they cover. Pitching a dog food brand to a luxury fashion magazine or a designer brand to a blog about frugal fashion finds shows you don’t understand the publication’s target market and will be ignored or declined.

 

Know who to email.

This goes back to doing your research. Don’t just send it to the generic email address (which is usually forwarded on to someone vaguely relevant but not always) or the editor-in-chief who will very likely not read it. Instead, read the bylines on stories, find out who covers the section you want to be in, who does the regular q&a’s with designers, who compiles the product pages etc and find out their email (call the switch if you need or hunt down via Linkedin, Instagram, Google or your contacts – Flaunter has a comprehensive database available to users). Then send that personalised email to them.

 

 

An important word on exclusives.

The word exclusive is thrown around very liberally and often it’s far from the case. An exclusive isn’t something that will appear under another guise in another publication.

A real exclusive is exactly that, exclusive to a publication and should be something readers would be excited to read or see.

Whether it’s breaking a big story or ensuring a product page is given images that haven’t been seen somewhere else, working with a journalist on exclusives will give you a better chance of making it into a story. So long as it’s actually an exclusive.

Also, while a real exclusive is amazing (the only person to speak to Michelle Obama, say) or important to some magazines when it comes to their upfront pages or shoots (they don’t want to feature a pair of shoes that everybody has featured, so share strategically) it’s not so much the exclusive that matters as the angle and the opportunities.

It’s not the end of the world if you don’t have an exclusive, but if you have one, make sure it really fits the bill.

“Hi Annie,

I know you work two weeks ahead and so wanted to give you the heads up that our new collection, LOVE, will be launching into stores on April 3.

It’s a new direction for the brand with creative director Annie Brown collaborating with renowned artist Eleanor Brown (her work recently won the Art Prize) on a range of pop art bags.

If you’re interested I can offer you an exclusive image and put you in touch with Annie and Eleanor should you need a quote for your page too.”

 

The difference between a media release and a pitch email. 

Let’s answer a very common question: what is the difference between a media release and a pitch email?

PITCH EMAIL
When you want to sell something in to a journalist to garner interest. It isn’t necessarily news, it could be an interview opportunity or commentary.

MEDIA RELEASE
Media releases are only required to announce news / launch / research.

Media releases longer than two pages are almost always unnecessary. Especially when they’re a jumble of adjectives and missing the crucial details.

Always follow the golden rule of prioritising messages: must know, need to know, good to know.

 

Media release template.

HEADLINE
Your headline should summarise the key points in a catchy, interesting way. Make sure you bold it.

LEAD
This is the most important element of your release. It is essential that the lead is be punchy and has the story hook. This includes the who, what, where, when, why and how.

BODY
This paragraph should expand on the lead and start telling the story. Always prioritise messages from most important to least important. Showcase the value of what you are offering and why they would be interested in it. Always write in third person and be concise and straightforward – use dot points/bold text to highlight important information.

You can use quotes and key facts to make your release more interesting, but remember to attribute all statements to a particular person or reference. Media are unable to use newsworthy assertions unless sourced.

END
This is the least important information and can summarise essential background information about the brand, event, or person. Always finish the release with –ends–.

CONTACT INFORMATION
Include all relevant details to make it as easy for the journalist to contact you. Provide useful links to your brand’s website and Instagram, a hero image, and a [Flaunter] link to hi-res image files.

BOILER PLATE (ABOUT)
Include background about the brand, collaborators, event or key person. This information will give the journalist an overview and isn’t necessarily needed in the release.

 

Should you follow-up?

Most journalists hate a phone call to follow-up on an email pitch. Especially if the email was sent an hour beforehand.

But we understand that you need a response. It’s best to follow-up with an email before a call.

Other pet peeves include getting their name wrong, emails with loads of marketing jargon in them (keep it simple), being harassed and press releases that don’t have the key details in them.

 

So when does a phone call work?

It’s harder to say no on the phone, but this only really works when you have a relationship with the journalist. That’s when hosting journalists to see your collections in person or having a coffee meeting every now and then will pay off. Not only will they be receptive to hearing a phone pitch but they’re more likely to open and respond to your email.

 

 

Trust the journalist.

Trying to control the story – by insisting on brand mentions, question censoring or pressuring on angles or images – will generally only result in the journalist feeling annoyed and possibly even deciding not to run the story. Not even Beyonce gets image approval!

Instead work on ensuring the journalist has everything they need to ensure an interesting, accurate and engaging story. Also note that often things are out of the journalist’s control – headlines, layout, sub-edits.

 

Say thank you.

Send an email to the journalist if they’ve featured you in a story. It’s rarely done and it goes a long way toward building a relationship with the journalist.

A good relationship – one built on trust and respect will ultimately be your biggest asset.

 

Wrap up.

  • Choose a target journalist and publication.
  • Read the journalist’s prior articles [starting with the most recent].
  • Pitch a story. DON’T pitch your company or product.
  • Get to the point, don’t add fluff.
  • Be respectful of the journalist’s time.
  • Politely follow up via email after a few days have passed. Again, be respectful of the journalist’s time.
  • Remember: your pitch might not work this time, but how you handle yourself will dictate whether your next pitch will get read.

 

 

Written by Annie Brown, a journalist and editor who specialises in fashion, luxury and lifestyle. Annie is currently a senior reporter at the Sydney Morning Herald and the Spend editor and a regular contributor to the Australian Financial Review. Follow Annie at @annie.l.brown
Image credit: Kaitlyn Ham || modernlegacy.com.au || @kaity_modern