8 Data-Backed Tips on How to Pitch Journalists and Get Noticed

November 4, 2014 Monika Jansen

how to pitch journalists

Put yourself in a journalist’s shoes at a major publication like The New York Times:

  • You get an average of 38,000 emails a year – three times that of the average worker.
  • You only write one story per day, but you get a minimum of 20 pitches every day.
  • You sometimes write a story based on a pitch, but you just as often don’t.

What kind of pitch will stand out to you?

With the flood of information bombarding journalists every day, it’s true: the new world of public relations is tough. Getting in front of top journalists is tough. But it’s not impossible.

The Harvard Business Review published a fantastic, data-backed blog post based on a survey with 500 journalists. Want to get in front of them? Here’s what they had to say:

1. Keep your pitches short

Imagine trying to read 38,000 long emails every year! The vast majority of journalists like emails under 200 words; under 100 words is even better.

2. Send ideas that fit their beat

Note that I said “ideas.” Seventy percent of journalists are open to getting pitched a set of ideas, which allows them to pick and choose what they think is best. Also, those ideas MUST be relevant to their beat. Take a few minutes to read that journalist’s most recent articles to ensure you are getting it right.

3. Go in ready to collaborate

Journalists don’t like to get pitched a finished product (article, infographic, etc.); they want to collaborate and have a hand in shaping its angle. Go into your pitch with an open mind.

4. Focus on pitching these 3 types of stories

The top types of stories journalists are most eager to collaborate on are: exclusive research, breaking news, and emotional stories. Journalists prefer articles, but you can also offer the option for images and interactive media, too (think infographics, data visualizations, videos, interactive maps).

5. Ask for a warm introduction

Reach out to people in your network, and ask for a warm introduction to the journalist you would like to pitch (look for connections on LinkedIn). Once you establish a relationship, email is the perfect way to reach him or her.

6. Avoid mistakes in your pitch

Before emailing your pitch, read it out loud and ask someone else to read it – just to be on the safe side. That might sound like overkill, but a majority of journalists are completely, very, or slightly likely to delete a pitch based on a spelling/grammar errors, regardless of the content’s quality.

7. Write awesome subject lines

Journalists are just like us in that they decide whether or not to open an email based on the subject line. Nearly half of all journalists like the subject line formatted this way: Content Title, Type. Almost one third like a personalized subject line, and nineteen percent want a stat-based subject line.

8. Time your emails

Sixty-nine percent of journalists want to receive your pitch in the morning, which makes sense. If their deadline is mid-afternoon, a timely pitch received at 8am actually has the chance to get written that day. If timing is not a huge issue, they are certainly more likely to see it when they are looking for great story ideas.

If you are getting press, either locally, regionally, or nationally, what other tips do you have to share about pitching journalists? Have any questions on how to pitch journalists that I didn’t answer?

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Author information

Monika Jansen

Monika Jansen

Monika Jansen is a freelance copywriter and editor who helps with companies of all shapes on sizes kick their content up to the next level. You can find her online at www.jansencomm.com.

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