3 Tips from Reuters Journalists on Delivering Better Pitches
The time-honored tradition of “pitching” journalists still exists. But, instead of picking up the phone to call their local contacts, PR officers must now broaden their targets to those who are most influential, whether that is the beat writer at the local newspaper, the international correspondent sitting in a cutting edge newsroom in London or a blogger working out of their home office in Kansas.
With this change in demographic, public relations must adapt to the varied preferences of their audiences. Cold calls and blast emails are often ignored, and attempting to connect with a professional contact via social channels must be treated with caution to avoid alienating someone on their personal turf. So how do you engage more effectively?
At Thomson Reuters, I have the unique opportunity to sit between the world’s largest media organization and the public relations officers we support with communication tools. In this position, clients often ask the question: How do I get my pitch noticed?
We interviewed several journalists from our Reuters News team to understand how they choose what to write and how they prefer to interact with PR teams. Here are their responses:
- “PR people need a clear idea of what we are interested in—this is key for us actually using what they send.”
- “My biggest pet peeve is PR people who are relentless on the phone. Even if you have a great story, I may be more turned off by the multiple voicemails.”
- “A smart PR team would learn to tell the story like a journalistic story. I wish they would stop telling stories with all that jargon that doesn’t make sense to the average person.”
- “If you are a good journalist, you recognize that PR has a message to get out. Their credibility is based on how much spin is in their story.”
So, how can your pitch be more effective?
1) Do background research on your journalist first. Monitor their Twitter stream and their blog. What do they write about and whom do they respond to? Which social site do they dedicate much of their time to? Are they posting on Twitter hourly? Do they update their blog daily? How do they respond to comments on their blog? After better understanding their activity and preferences, start to engage them through these channels to build a relationship rather than pitching them blindly.
2) Get your influencer hooked using simple, short pitches. Grab attention in 20 seconds or less—an email/tweet with a link to video or image that tells a story is more interesting than plain text.
3) Write like a journalist. If the journalist bites on a pitch and asks for more, tell the story in a way that is most easily accessible for the journalist. If they are forced to strip out the jargon and spin, they may also strip out the main points as well. Credibility is lost and relationship is damaged if main story has to be altered.
In your opinion, what are the characteristics of an effective pitch?