Pitches aren’t one-size-fits-all, and a competent PR professional will tailor pitches to suit different outlets. A pitch for a TV producer is going to look different than one for a newspaper reporter, because they each require different information before deciding whether or not to pursue the story. For example, a TV producer will want to be assured that the segment will be visually interesting.
Getting even more granular, pitches for local and national TV producers will look different. A local TV producer will want to know that there’s a local tie-in and that the story has a strong impact on its viewers in the community. For a national TV producer – especially at a 24-hour news network like CNN or Fox News Channel – conveying a strong point of view about a current news hook is essential.
Because reporters at print outlets typically work with at least a few days’ lead time, a pitch that leads with a client’s insightful point of view on a current trend can be more effective than one with an ultra-timely news hook. Different reporters are more likely to write in-depth feature stories on one company or individual or trend pieces that pull insights from different sources, and pitches must be adjusted accordingly. As with TV, it’s important to emphasize why the story is relevant to a newspaper’s readers – which could mean investors for an outlet like the Wall Street Journal or the residents of a certain town for a local newspaper.
At Ditto, we often create the basic framework for a pitch and then customize it depending on what types of outlets we’re pitching. Earlier this year, we pitched a segment on coding academies to the producers at PBS NewsHour, offering interviews not only with our client’s main spokespeople but also alumni and current students. We also emphasized the visual elements of the segment, such as watching students learn to code (with code projected onto a giant screen) and drones and virtual reality headsets students learned to use.
Because our pitch was so strong and multi-layered, suggesting numerous ways the story could be visually engaging, a segment that was originally supposed to look at several coding academies became not one but two pieces solely focused on our client. One was a feature on the school, and the other profiled its co-founder.
To offer a very different example, we pitched a story about the varying costs of different SAT prep services for another client, a high-end test prep company. We knew that one of the reporters we pitched, Ann Carrns at the New York Times, tended to publish articles that examined various personal finance trends in great detail. Instead of pitching a standalone feature on our client, our pitch laid out the angle – understanding the costs associated with taking the SAT – and suggested several test prep companies she could interview for the story, not just our client. As a result, our client – a tech company serving a niche audience – appeared in the Times’ Your Money section alongside some of the biggest and most dominant companies in its industry.
Lastly, we started working with a health and wellness company and knew that, with its founder’s background in the videogame industry, Greg Toppo was the perfect reporter to do a feature on them. Before we could pitch Greg, though, we had to make sure we were offering him a complete story. We refined the angle – how the company applies the same principles that make videogames so engaging to motivating people to exercise – and made sure we had plenty of sources to offer him aside from our client’s CEO, including a doctor and former hostage negotiator who advise the company, and a client. Because we offered Greg a complete story, he ended up publishing a substantial feature article on the client.
The “spray-and-pray” approach to PR – sending a generic pitch broadly to any reporter who is remotely relevant – doesn’t work. Most reporters receive hundreds of pitches per day, and if they can’t visualize the story – and see why suits their publication, audience and writing style – they’ll move on to the next one. A PR professional’s job is to connect the dots for reporters and make them see that not only are they uniquely qualified to tell this story, our client is uniquely qualified to be part of it.