Part 1 of this series concentrated on knowing “who” you're pitching and briefly on knowing “what” you're pitching. Part 2 focuses on “how” to pitch, particularly if you're sending your story idea to the media by email to avoid having it trashed, unread. Here are three simple tips to help ensure you get an audience for the duration of your pitch, from the start to the very end.
4. Beware of sending email attachments.
Unidentified and unsolicited email attachments will rarely get opened, even if they do manage to reach the intended's inbox. Before then, many will be blocked by firewalls and junked with spam, never to be seen by the journalist. Reporters, too, are wary of opening attachments these days, afraid of what they might find inside. In any case, if all your key information is in an unopened attachment, you can safely say you've probably wasted your time.
5. Get to the point quickly. Whether you call or email a reporter, identify yourself immediately and get straight to the point of your reason for contact. Remind them of prior conversations, if applicable, and if you call, be sure to ask, before you launch into your pitch, if it's a convenient time to speak. Being vague or long-winded is only likely to ensure the reporter won't take you seriously and may just refuse to take your next call. Sure, if you get to know the reporter, you'll probably find they give you a little more latitude and respond positively to you either way. But until you've reached the stage in your career when you have a sea of media connections, these calls are generally “cold.”
6. Include a final “call to action” in emails. If you do email a reporter, don't forget to include a short, catchy reminder of what you're pitching and how you want the reporter to respond, along with a URL for easy access to more information. Reporters get countless emails a day, and may only read the very beginning and end of yours. If they can't discern what you want quickly, your efforts are all for naught.
Pitching the media is a little like playing a hand of poker. You need to play by the rules to stay in the game. While a good bluff might win you the hand, it will eventually lose you the game. Pros are always prepared.
Rebecca Derrington is the founder of SourceBottle.