At our February 24 meeting, Gazette reporter Jennifer Hemmingsen discussed what it takes for a pitch letter to make it to print. The criteria is tough: of the many pitches she receives each day, Hemmingsen said she deletes most of them, and of the ones she opens, she typically reads only the first paragraph. Luckily, Hemmingsen shared with PRSSA some tips on how to get your pitch letter noticed and in the news…
Start with the basics by making sure you are pitching to the right person. Know what that reporter’s beat is and only pitch relevant material to them. Also make sure you know the reporter’s audience; if your pitch isn’t going to appeal to a reporter’s readers, it will likely be headed straight for the trash.
Once you have made sure you are pitching to the right person (or people), read over your pitch to ensure it is informative, relevant, and clear. It is especially important to convey these things in the subject line, so the recipient doesn’t immediately delete your pitch. As a rule, always avoid cutesy language and over the top descriptions (amazing, fantastic, etc.). Your pitch will get more attention by being timely and relevant to local readers. Think like a reporter: don’t forget to address the who, what, when, where and why questions that a reporter needs to address in their story.
Hemmingsen gave a few other tips for savvy pitching:
- Send your pitch on a Monday afternoon–reporters will have caught up on their email by then, so it is less likely to be lost in the rush. Never send a pitch letter on a Friday afternoon
- Slow news cycles are in the summer and right before holidays. Reporters are in need of more content and this makes it a good time for you to send your pitch. Similarly, don’t send your pitch the day of a national election. You will most likely be ignored.
- When calling to follow up on a pitch letter, ask the reporter if they have time to talk. Reporters are often on deadline and it is important to be respectful of this.
Although Hemmingsen said there is no foolproof way to get your pitch noticed, following the above advice will certainly help your chances.
By Kelly Trettin