- Posted by Caroline Yancey
- On August 30, 2018
- journalism, media, media relations, pitch, PR, PR tactics, PRSA Georgia, relationships, training
As a public relations professional who is pitching story ideas to reporters and editors daily, I often wish I could read their minds to find out why some pitches stick and others fall flat. At PRSA Georgia’s annual “Pitch Tank” event on August 9 I gained some firsthand insight. A panel of seasoned journalists, from outlets including the Associated Press and Fox News, heard live pitches from Georgia PR professionals and gave honest feedback as to why the pitch piqued their interest or why it was a flop.
Mikey Mooney, an account supervisor at Poston Communications and the recipient of last year’s PRSA Georgia Rising Star Award, said the luncheon is the most popular each year because it brings together some of the most prominent journalists in the South. “The opportunity to bring their direct advice back to the office is an extremely value for us as PR professionals and, more importantly, for our clients,” Mooney said
The insightful dialogue during the Pitch Tank offered four valuable lessons to keep in mind when pitching to journalists:
- Get to the point, fast. Reporters are often under tight deadlines and working to get news out as quickly as possible. They likely won’t have time to read a long-winded pitch, no matter how well written it is. When thinking about my own reading style, I’m more likely to skim over something (if it’s not a required read, of course) when there is a giant block of text. After hearing a few pitches that gave too many details upfront, the media panel emphasized that they’re more likely to move forward with a pitch if the PR professional says from the beginning what he or she is offering and explains why it’s relevant in a clear and concise manner.
Provide images or videos if possible. Not only is visual content more engaging and memorable, but our brains process imagery faster than text. According to a study by 3M, visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. Additionally, 90 percent of information sent to the brain is visual – images and videos resonate better than words for most of us. The Pitch Tank media emphasized that they appreciate when images or videos are included in a pitch, and that they’re more likely to cover a topic if compelling visuals are included. Using an engaging photo or video in a pitch, even if it’s linking a YouTube video relevant to the idea you’re pitching, can be a great opportunity to capture the attention of the journalist.
- Know your audience. From my perspective, quality over quantity is always better, especially when finding reporters to pitch, and the media panel echoed this belief. It’s worthwhile to spend time finding the right journalist to pitch. As a PR professional who is pitching reporters daily, I’ve found success when my media list is targeted. This can be accomplished by researching the reporter and his or her recent coverage or beat before pitching them. You don’t want to be the PR person spamming their inbox with a pitch they have no interest in and would never report.
- Call me, maybe. Most of the reporters on the panel made it clear that they strictly prefer email over phone calls when receiving pitches from PR professionals. One panelist commented that she rarely talks on the phone with personal friends, let alone a PR professional with whom she has no relationship. The panelists did note that if you already have an established relationship with the journalist, calling them is acceptable. They also observed that younger generations are known for their preference of electronic communications. Ultimately, the panel suggested a rule of thumb that if the initial communication doesn’t require a conversation, then it’s better sent by email.
Caroline Yancey is an account executive at Poston Communications, based in Atlanta.