How to Think Like a Journalist When Pitching Your Story: 5 Easy Tips

Reporters and editors go through hundreds of pitches a week, most of which end up in their email junk folder.  Why?  Most of the time it’s because they’re either too long, too short, irrelevant, or poorly written.

So how do you avoid the junk mail folder when pitching a journalist? Well the best way to start, is to try thinking like one.  As with many things in life, when approaching someone for a favor (in this case, publishing your story), it’s best to demonstrate how that favor serves the favor giver’s interests as well.  Once you put yourself in the position of the reporter, you’re more likely to write a pitch that serves their interests and gets their attention.

Here we offer 5 easy and useful tips on how to think like a reporter when pitching your story.  Ignore them at your own PR peril!

Consider Editorial Needs and Deadlines

This means doing some research on the reporter and the publication.  What are their editorial guidelines? What kinds of stories do they feature?  Who is their audience?  If you can get ahold of their editorial calendar, all the better.  The main thing here is to consider what their editorial needs are, and pitch appropriately.  The more refined your pitch is to their editorial needs, the more likely your story will be picked up.  Another way to put that is, the more likely your story (as described in your pitch) will appeal to their audience, the more likely they’ll run with it.

Give them an angle

Now that you know the reporter or publication’s editorial needs, you can modify your pitch as necessary.  Based on your knowledge of their readership, fashion your story into an angle that will appeal to their readers.  Does your story meet a local angle?  Does it tie to a recent news event or trend?  Does it solve a problem for their readers?  Does it present something new or unique in its industry?  Whatever angle you choose, make sure to demonstrate why this angle will appeal to their readership.

The 5 W’s

A little Journalism 101 for you: get to the point, and get to it fast (then explain more later).  Most J-Schools preach that a reporter should answer the 5 W’s of their story within the first 2 paragraphs. The 5 W’s being: the Who, What, Where, When and Why.  The same should go for your pitch.  Get to the point of your story, and get to it quickly. You can explain why the story’s important later.

Make it Easy on Them (or at least don’t make it hard on them!)

Get ready for another life-turned-into-PR lesson: People are more likely to do a favor for you, if you make it super easy for them.  Other than giving them their story angle and demonstrating why your story interests their readers, you should make the pitch easy to read by eliminating grammar errors and typos.  Don’t forget to include all the necessary contact information in your signature, and before you send – write a clear, concise but informative subject line.  If the reporter has to search for a way to contact you, and can barely get past the first run-on sentence, you can forget about it.

Be Honest with Them, and Yourself

Want to know the number one reason your story doesn’t get published?  Because it’s just not news.  Be honest with yourself about whether your story is actually a viable news item.  Sure, your company news may interest friends and family – but is it going to interest anyone else?  Blatant self promotion, veiled as a news item, is not going to get press.  The media are only going to care about your product/service/company news if their readers will care.  If your pitch does nothing else but demonstrate why their readers will care, then you’re far ahead of the crowd.