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Email is the key for pitching to media

01 Jun, 2020 Media relations

This article was originally published in 2015 and has been completely updated in 2020.

Despite all the chatter about the importance of social media, traditional news media still command the largest audiences. And the most effective way to provide story ideas to journalists is through email pitches.

Email pitches favored by reporters

Recent media surveys provide some valuable highlights for communicators. The Muck Rack State of Journalism Survey 2019 found targeted (“1:1”) email by far the preferred channel to receive pitches (93%). Every other channel was disliked, as in the graph below. Around 69% of respondents were US-based and 31% in other countries. Total number of respondents was not provided.

Most reporters use media releases to merely provide a useful topic for an article, and they use some of the material in the ensuing story. Content should be tailored for target audiences. 65% of journalists would rather receive customized press releases, than one mass-audience release. If offered an exclusive, 76% of journalists surveyed by Muck Rack said they were more likely to cover a story if offered an exclusive. Around 63% of the journalists told Muck Raxk their relationship with PR firms was mutually beneficial, but they didn’t see it as a partnership. The most preferred time for receiving email pitches is 9-11 am, and with a length of 2-3 paragraphs.

About 73% of journalists said they don’t mind receiving a follow up to a pitch they didn’t initially respond to, and only 12% would prefer to not receive any follow up. Respondents said that content from PR professionals is more shareable as below:

Use of social media

Reporters use social media to develop story ideas and to monitor a topic when working on a story. When reporting on a company, 61% said they consult the company’s social media as part of their background checking. A total of 71% said they track how many times their stories are shared on social media.

PR relationships worthwhile

More than half of respondents said their relationship with PR professionals affected their decision to cover a story. This shows that building a relationship is a valuable way to offset the main objection to media releases, mentioned above, ie that 40% of reporters don’t trust the content. About 39% of respondents said having a positive relationship with a PR professional does not affect their covering of a story,

The most annoying thing for reporters was receiving pitches that are irrelevant to their ‘beat,’ while the other two main annoyances were receiving repeated pitches of the same story and receiving pitch emails that contained poor spelling and grammar.

Lessons for PR professionals

  • Take the time to develop a positive relationship with key reporters. This will lead to trust in your professionalism and most likely increase the acceptance of your material.
  • Make key reporters your priority for important material. Nurture them and respect their needs. You can distribute material to others after you have dealt with your key contacts.
  • Provide material that is newsworthy, factual, doesn’t exaggerate, has good spelling and grammar, and is delivered in time to meet deadlines.
  • Don’t expect a reporter to use only your material or angle. Most of the time they will use it as a starting point for the theme you have proposed to them. They may well talk with competitors and other third parties in the preparation of a story. This is to be expected, but if you have been on the level with the angle and content of your story, your pitch will still have a better chance than otherwise.
  • This article updated in 2020.

About the author Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison loves sharing actionable ideas and information about professional communication and business management. He has wide experience as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer, and CEO of a non-profit organization. Kim is a Fellow and former national board member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, and he ran his State’s professional development program for 7 years, helping many practitioners to strengthen their communication skills. People from 115 countries benefit from the practical knowledge shared in his monthly newsletter and in the eBooks available from cuttingedgepr.com.

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