Future of media relations relies on the ‘casual pitch’

Water & Wall SAE highlights the importance of concise pitching and building personal relationships with reporters.

When I first learned how to pitch, the task — on paper — seemed right up my alley. When it came time to execute though, it took me a while to figure things out.

I entered the world of financial PR with virtually no experience in finance or PR and my first few pitches showed it. They were wordy, filled with unnecessary information and lacked the key to all good pitches: a hook.

The added clutter limited the responses I received because I was relying on reporters to cut through the noise of my words.

After two years in the industry, I’m grateful to have worked alongside and learned from some brilliant colleagues who have helped me hone the craft of the “casual pitch” — a key ingredient to media success.

Reporters are increasingly focused on concise pitches, usable data and personal relationships with PR professionals. Media relations is shifting to reflect that, with 92% of PR pros reporting they’ve kept their pitches under 300 words according to Muck Rack’s 2023 State of PR report.

The industry is coming to a consensus that less is indeed more. Outlets such as Axios continue to draw readers with short-form, digestible articles and conversational writing. Other publications are following suit. Even The New York Times is experimenting breaking articles down into sections, feeling “very Axios,” Wall Street Journal and former PRWeek reporter Alexandra Bruell wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Media is continuously evolving as publications vie to capture a reader’s attention and subscriptions. Reporters are dealing with chronic understaffing and tighter deadlines amid a rise in layoffs and newsroom shutdowns. It only makes sense that pitches must be succinct to catch a reporter's eye.

Pitching styles can vary dramatically among colleagues, agencies and brands, but all good media relations pros rely heavily on the human element. While a lot of noise has been made around the rise of AI in pitching, the personal relationships built and maintained between PR professionals and reporters still hold the most weight.

A reporter weeding through pitches is much more likely to open an email if they know the sender, their agency and their clients and trust that they’ll supply good sources.

Cision’s 2023 State of the Media report supports the value of human connection, with one reporter sharing that they enjoy when PR people reach out to check in on the team’s needs and priorities rather than solely seeking out media placement.

The most fruitful opportunities for my clients have come from my own relationships with reporters. Even when I’m unable to share a comment or meet a deadline, showing I will go above and beyond to assist a reporter and understand their beat has created positive relationships that help both parties do our jobs better.

Sonia Wong is a senior account executive at Water & Wall.

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