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The 5 Foolproof Steps to Pitching Your Story to the Media

Getting featured in the media helps to build authority and trust, but to do that, you'll need an effective pitch. Here's how to pitch like a pro.

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"Hey Jeremy, I saw an article about you and wanted to reach out to see if you can help me."

This is something I hear all the time, and it's because of the fact that I am consistently featured in numerous media outlets about public relations, which demonstrates to people that I'm an expert and can help them get featured too. In other words, I don't have to go chasing leads as much because people come to me. And the same will happen for you when you get featured in the media as an expert at whatever it is that you do.

Despite you being an expert, it can be challenging to convince a journalist to feature you. Especially if you don't already have some solid media coverage to validate your expert status. The key is to send an effective pitch that cuts through the noise, gets them emotionally engaged, and positions you as an expert on the subject. I'm going to break down exactly how to craft that kind of a pitch in this article.

Related: Why Talking to Media Is a Crash Course on Pitching to Angel Investors

1. Build your media list

Before you can send a pitch, you'll need a list of relevant contacts in the media. I want to emphasize that this is not a numbers game. Sending a well-crafted pitch that's tailored to the right people is always going to yield better results than sending a massive volume of pitches to every email address you can get your hands on.

So where can you find the right contacts to build a relevant media list?

You could use powerful but expensive tools like Cision or Muck Rack to find contact information for journalists, but you don't really need to. Instead, you can simply visit the media outlets you'd like to be featured in, find the journalists who cover topics relevant to you and your business, and then connect with them on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can pitch them directly via direct message on these platforms, but it's typically better to pitch them via email. (Once you're connected on LinkedIn, you'll have their email address.)

2. Craft your subject line

Your subject line is one of the most important parts of your pitch because it's the first thing journalists will see, and it determines whether they will even open your email. In other words, the stakes are high here.

But while your subject line is the first thing they'll see, it's actually the last part you should write. That's because it needs to clearly and concisely encapsulate the pitch itself in an engaging and intriguing manner to cut through the noise in their inbox. This is easier once you've already written the rest of your pitch because you then have something to base it on.

Aim for a compelling subject line with seven to nine words, at forty to sixty characters. And always test your subject line to make sure it displays fully on mobile devices.

So how do we craft a compelling subject line that cuts through the noise and gets their attention? A few ways you can do that include:

  • Incorporating relevant current events
  • Using a startling statistic
  • Hinting at a unique solution to a common problem

For example, when the Russia/Ukraine conflict started, cyber attacks by Russia against US targets increased dramatically. I was able to secure several media features for a client in the cyber security industry with the following subject line:

DoD warns of increased cyber attacks against US businesses

It was effective because it was concise, intriguing and was connected to a topic that everyone was already talking about.

Related: Email Subject Lines Can Really Suck. Here's How to Make Yours Better.

3. Create a compelling intro

This is going to sound counterintuitive, but you should not try to be overly friendly in your intro because it's disingenuous, inauthentic, and frankly, everyone can see right through it.

Every journalist already gets a ton of pitches that start by trying to butter them up with vague, empty compliments, followed by the real reason for the email. That is a terrible approach that wastes their time and yours. You know the kind of intro I'm talking about…

Hi Mary,

I hope you're having an awesome day! I just wanted to say that I love your work. You're a great writer and XYZ Magazine is lucky to have you one its staff!

You have just a second or two to hook them emotionally, so make it count. Some examples of compelling intros could include:

  • Over 26% of employed adults have substance abuse or addiction in their families, and over 42% of these employees felt their productivity suffer as a result, hurting every business in America.
  • February uptick in early-stage delinquencies drives first increase in past-due mortgages in nine months, which will lead to increased foreclosures and decreased property values.
  • Global cybercrime costs are expected to grow by 15% per year over the next five years, reaching $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, and small businesses bear the brunt of this growing threat.

4. Write the body of your pitch

This is where we start to get into the details of your story. If the journalist is still reading at this point, they are interested in what you have to say, so it's up to you to keep them interested with the pitch itself.

Identify the problem and its impact on their audience

Most stories in the media are based on some form of conflict—a problem that affects their audience in some significant way.

You should plainly and honestly state the problem and explain exactly how it impacts their audience. And avoid technical jargon unless you're pitching a trade publication in your own industry. Your pitch has to resonate with the audience, and in most cases, the audience doesn't have the same knowledge you do. That's why they come to you in the first place, right?

So keep it simple and clear. Will the problem put their company at a legal risk? Will it block them from a particular opportunity? Will it cost them money?

A few brief sentences, or better yet, a few bullet points works best here. Statistics and quantifiable data are incredibly powerful here.

Briefly introduce yourself and outline your area of expertise

This should be a simple one sentence statement that highlights your expertise, and more importantly your relevance to the topic.

Here are a few examples I've used for some of my clients:

  • David Bell is a workplace safety expert and runs the national drug testing company, USA Mobile Drug Testing.
  • Nicole Espinosa is known in the real estate industry as The Short Sale Queen, and is a recognized as the authority on short sales.
  • Rick Jordan is a cybersecurity expert with extensive training from within the industry as well as from the CIA and NSA.

Explain your unique solution to the problem

I've talked a lot about the importance of not just being better, but being different. That's especially important when it comes to pitching because you absolutely need to stand out. Otherwise, journalists will just cite the already well-recognized experts instead of you.

So you need to highlight how you do things differently and why your approach is better for their audience.

For example, if I was to pitch a story to the media about Uber before it had become a household name, I might explain the company's unique solution as such:

Instead of calling a taxi company, giving them your address and your destination, and then waiting for a cab to eventually drive out and pick you up, Uber enables you to hail a cab with just a few clicks on your smartphone. Within seconds, you'll know exactly who is coming to pick you up, and they'll be guided to your location via GPS, and you can communicate directly with the driver through the app to make the process smoother and easier.

5. Close with a call to action

I've seen a lot of great pitches fail because there was no call to action.

It's crazy to think that an amazing pitch would fall flat because you're not directly asking a journalist to take the next step, but this is the reality of the situation. And for what it's worth, this doesn't just apply to journalists. It's a well-known psychological phenomenon. People typically won't take action until directly asked to do so.

So we need to make sure we do that. But this requires a delicate balancing act. If you word it too far in one direction, it comes off as needy and desperate, and if you word it too far in the other direction, it comes off as demanding and entitled. Like Goldilocks, you need to find that sweet spot somewhere in the middle.

Personally, I like taking a confident, somewhat insouciant tone. Both because that's how I feel, and because it generally produces the best results.

If this sounds like a story you're interested in covering, email or call me directly at 813-867-5309.

Simple and direct. And it demonstrates that while you'd like them to feature you, you're not desperate for it. The latter is especially important because desperation can turn a journalist off of a story they otherwise might cover.

Related: 11 Call to Action Hacks to Boost Clicks and Conversion

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