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Media Pitch Template Fit for a Pandemic

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Media pitch templates are hard to come by. Let’s fix that.

How media relations are handled during this evolving pandemic must be rethought, from top to bottom. Newspaper offices are closing and more than 11,000 newsroom jobs have been lost since the coronavirus came. So, you have to pitch the media in a modern way because traditional PR is over.

TL;dr

  • Spend the time to research who you are pitching
  • Shorten all media pitches
  • If you don’t have news, don’t pitch

I and other PR professionals across multiple verticals have used the media pitch template and strategies below to secure media placements since the COVID-19 crisis came. I even asked multiple journalists to review this post, so you learn what they want to see in a pitch email.

A journalist does not care about your business.

Jason FeiferEditor in Chief of Entrepreneur magazine

The Point Is…

“Pitching media in a pandemic requires different approaches and strategies.”

Pandemic Pitching Is Different

As Jason Feifer said, journalists don’t care about your business. They care about what’s useful and interesting to their readers. Your company is not the story. What your business did for a client (i.e., brand, merchant), the community or the industry as a whole is often the story.

Everything in media relations has changed. Therefore, all guides on how to write media pitches for reporters, editors, or influencers that were published pre-pandemic must be rewritten. Communications plans that cost upwards of five figures, which were referenced by in-house teams and public relations agencies for decades, are outdated.

Coronavirus hasn’t only changed consumer behavior, it’s changed media behavior.

Reporters have less time. While working from home regularly, they, like you, don’t want to open their inbox and see whack or lengthy emails. Many reporters are picking up the work of former colleagues, on top of scanning the 30 to 200 pitches they get each day.

Everything related to media relations is up for reexamination including writing and sending story pitches to reporters, and I’ll help you with that today.

Marketers Need Media Relations Help

Since March, I’ve spoken directly with founders, marketers, and even sales folks who are pitching journalists since they’re short-handed or can’t afford a public relations partner. All of them had one thing in common: they weren’t confident about pitching.

Call after call, I was asked how I was pitching and securing stories during a global crisis. Months later, I sat down to write this modern media pitch template that’s designed to help anyone craft eye-catching pitches, no matter the industry. I urge you to adjust the format, tone, and copy based on each individual recipient.

Oh, and if you read on and wonder why I didn’t get into subject lines, I feel they deserve a dedicated article — I’ll get to it.

Media Pitch Template + Guidance

Go ahead, click the blurry screenshot below for the media pitch template. It’s a Google Doc with insights from myself and other senior PR professionals.

Email Introduction

No fluff, here we go…

In one or two sentences, add a brief salutation. Please stop using hollow email greetings like “I hope all is well” these days. Try “I know you’re busy” or an alternative, or nothing.

Next, show you know the subject area or beat of the reporter. Spend five minutes to read what they’ve written about. Few things are more annoying to a journalist than receiving a pitch on a topic they don’t write about. It’s easy to find a reporter’s beat on the masthead of publication websites, at the top of reporter’s bios, in Twitter bios, and elsewhere. 

The most common and acceptable way to show a reporter that you understand what they write about is to drop a note proving you’ve read a recent story of theirs. Open the template to see an example.

  • Tip: make sure you’ve correctly spelled a journalist’s name
  • Insight: too many reporters are pitched topics they don’t cover

Two Brief Paragraphs

In four to six-ish sentences, present pertinent information such as the connection between your company’s story and a trend, the name and title of the subject matter expert (SME), or an insightful takeaway found in a new study/report/survey. This section is the heart of your body copy and should be edited down as much as possible. 

Don’t be afraid to be clear about why you’re reaching out. If your goal is to introduce the reporter to an SME for a potential interview, say so.

  • Tip: add hyperlinks to your company’s site, press release, referenced material, and one to the SME’s LinkedIn profile
  • Bonus Tip: link to a Google Drive or Dropbox folder (don’t include attachments)
  • Insight: reporters don’t have time to read white papers/ebooks/reports, so, in a nutshell, briefly tell them why it’s interesting to their audience

Next, I’ll walk you through why and how to use bullet points in order to get across the crux of your media pitch.

Bullet Points (sometimes)

All media pitches must be easy to scan, especially today. When bulleted lists are used correctly in email pitches, they can summarize almost anything, even the most complicated subjects.

Bullets are regularly utilized by PR professionals in media pitches to showcase the main points a SME is making, provide the full details on an event via the Five W’s (who, what, when, where and why), present takeaways for an audience, highlight survey findings, and other vital items.

  • Tip: a general rule of thumb is to stick to 1-2 sentences per bullet
  • Bonus Tip: 2-4 bullets is usually plenty
  • Insight: stats and data look good in bullets because they stand out visually, so, use them whenever possible

The Closing

The final portion of media pitches is debated by PR professionals. Some advise inserting a question to kindly ask the reporter if they’d like to connect with your proposed SME/source about X topic. Another group of PR pros argues it’s implied the email sender will connect the reporter to a source, basically saying that asking the question isn’t needed and it’s better to tell the reporter you’ll follow up with them to learn of their interest. My advice: test and see what works.

Either way, please note that it is standard practice to repeat the last name of the SME and the proposed topic in this section. When pitching an SME, state that an SME bio is below if the journalist wants to scan their background. If you’re pitching an event or happening (i.e., another webinar), repeat the title. 

  • Tip: do not propose times when an SME is available as you’re not in control — the reporter is
  • Bonus Tip: never demand that a reporter cover your business

Always show appreciation to someone for reading your pitch. It’s likely they received hundreds of others that day. A simple “thanks for your time” works. 

Lastly, remember that if you have nothing newsworthy to share with the press, practice email distancing. 

General Media Pitch Tip: Unless a publication, journalist or influencer publishes a recurring content column or a theme like ‘how we did it’, don’t pitch a story about your business that is exactly like a recent story; the story is done. Sorry to break it to you.

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