Pitch Perfect, People!

By Umme Qizra Aleem

Pitching to journalists is not a layman’s task. You might think that pitching is a normal task but, it is tough. In my experience, working in public relations has become harder than ever before. The media landscape has changed over the years and the role of journalists has drastically evolved, especially in the B2B sector. With magazines and newspapers driven to maintain their hold in the reader’s community, they have diversified and fragmented their content, targeted at niche audiences of specific sectors.

The idea of communications remains the same but what’s different is the way it’s communicated. I didn’t belong to the generation that faxed out media announcements and press releases, but I did work with them. Digitally, we have transformed by moving on from faxing out releases to sending them by email. It is always easy to hit the send button and wait for the journalist to respond magically to your pitch, but we are in a business where conversation matters, and we must put in the effort to convert a pitch into a story.

With the change in the journalism landscape comes the change in how we – the PR pros – communicate with them.

I am not belittling email as a meagre way of sending a story of a release, it is an incredible and an effortless means to share information to a larger group of journalists. But, I must flag this because most of the PR pros assume that email is the best way to communicate. If you ask me how a strong pitch works, I will always advise you to pick up that phone and speak to the journalist. This is how you either make or break your story.

Journalists receive thousands of emails from PR pros, especially if they are from the B2B sector. You may send a fantastic pitch and more often than not, it could miss the journalist’s eye. Do not assume that the journalist will read your mail and call you back. It doesn’t work like that. Make your pitch stand out by calling the journalist and giving them your pitch verbally. The majority of journalists will take your call, but they won’t have excess time on their hands, so you need to be ready with your crisp pitch and in not more than two sentences.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, they even give you feedback if you ask them smartly. You must know this tactic to ‘ask without asking’. Phrase your winning sentence smartly, make them believe that your idea is newsworthy and that you are all in to give them more insights to make the story not just reader friendly but authentic as well.

There is more to your pitch than you think, and you must go beyond just calling and emailing them. Stop hiding behind your screen and go meet the journalists. It is always a good idea to ask the journalist out for lunch or just a cup of coffee. This will give you an opportunity to give a face to the name that usually pops up in their mailbox. As a PR practitioner, this will also help you understand the media’s mindset and will give you a clearer picture of the kind of stories they are interested in.

To be successful, B2B PR professionals must have clear and strategic conversations with journalists, especially when dealing with specialized publications that focus on specific stories.

So, get off that chair, go out and meet the journalist to have a real conversation with them!