How to Pitch Journalists: a Guide on Perfecting Your Pitch

Sometimes I get the feeling that a lot of companies out there see PR as this exclusive, Mad Men-ish clique that wave their magical wands and suddenly get massive coverage. What is this magic sauce they’re using and why aren’t the top tier publications covering your epic kickstarter campaign or your new disrupting Uber for –something- something-.

I hope that you didn’t send them a wall-of-text email littered with hyperbole, buzzwords and rambling. No, young PR padawan — that is not the way to use the force — I’ll show you the way on how to pitch journalists.

Craft a short, value-driven message

Trying to explain what your company does to anyone without having their eyes glaze over is an art in itself (Editor’s note: Elevator pitch anyone?). You have to be able to fill in the blank: “My company/startup is a ______________”.

It might seem simple, but when you think that your company is the cool features you have packed into your web app — you’ll be babbling on and on about stuff that doesn’t matter and by the end of it, neither of you will have a firm grasp about what you actually do. Mark Suster wrote a great article a while back about simplifying your messaging.

– Cut out the buzzwords and industry jargon — pitch to your mom without having to explain what everything means. Words like ‘Game-changing’, ‘Revolutionary’, ‘Distruptive’ — they’re overused.
– Be congruent and use it everywhere, get everyone in your company onboard.

Couple of examples:

“Slack is a platform for team communication: everything in one place, instantly searchable, available wherever you go.”

“Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone.”

One Sentence Pitch

The Founder’s Institute has a great template on crafting your pitch:

“My company (company name), is developing (a defined offering) to help (a target audience) (solve a problem) with (secret sauce).

Know what’s newsworthy before you pitch journalists

This can be covered in a complete article on its own, but it’s crucial that you have an angle or a newsworthy pitch before you hit send. Journalists might get from 5 to 300 emails a day in their inbox, so make sure that you cut through the noise by having something attention-grabbing to say.

Some examples:
– Company launch (give a glimpse of the future — what your company/industry will help pave the way for)
– Release of a new product / fancy & disruptive feature
– Data, maybe you have a report or study to share
– Partnerships, maybe you struck a strategic partnership with a major distributor.
– Investment announcements
– New hires (did you really poach that VP from Twitter?)

What your company might not be revolutionary or plain out boring, but you might be sitting on some unique research that can be packaged into something interesting, that you offer exclusively for a publication — take a look at this Mashable article for example .

Keep the initial email very short

If they can’t get the gist of what you’re trying to do immediately — how can their readers? KISS might stand for a couple of things depending on whom you talk to, but keep it short and simple.

The ideal pitch should be around 150 words with a link to the company/product or screenshots if it isn’t live yet — or even a video of the product in action. To sum it up, before you pitch journalists, you have to have a headline that spells out what the news is and a pitch written in honest, plain English.

Kelsey Libert at Fractl surveyed over 500 digital publishers to discover what you can do to improve your content placement pitches.

Offer something to their readers

Think of some non-monetary giveaway, if you’re launching a paid app — give away some promo codes, or if you’re hosting a huge event — how about 5–10 free tickets? Another key thing is to include journalists early on if you’re developing a new product, let them try your alpha/beta before you push it out.

PS: All this doesn’t matter if you don’t find journalists that write about what you’re trying to pitch. Get to know the journalists, their beat and what interests them. A good pitch is relevant to the journalist.

Pitch templates for you:

Exclusive launch pitch

Subject line: Exclusive: 6–10 word subject line about the angle for your pitch like a headline
Hey (first_name),
Launching -company name- at (date and time) and (publication) gets exclusivity before then.
Brief and clear 2–3 sentence pitch on why you’re relevant to the writer / what your company is doing that is newsworthy.
Video Demo:
Live demo site:
Feature overviews:
(your_name, not your company)

Standard pitch:

Subject: Story: 6–10 word subject line about the angle for your pitch like a headline
Hi (first_name),
I’m the CEO & Co-founder behind (company_name), a(your_company_pitch). (Insert angle here — 10,000 users added weekly for example).
More info can be found here if you’re interested:
Best regards,
(contact info)

The article reference

Subject: RE: Article headline
Hey (first_name),
I was just reading your article (article_title) and thought (controversial point/share your opinion,/ask them a question.)
By the way, my company (company_pitch). We were recently featured/talked about in (recent accomplishment)., and we’re pushing the news out soon.
Would love to share it with you if you’re interested, do you mind if I send you a link/press release?