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Don’t balk: Ten key tips for pitching success


It’s critical for comms pros to build rapport with journalists and strengthen brand reputation, with the possibility of growing quality backlinks. But building that relationship requires media relations savvy


Journalists and PR professionals may need each other, but the relationship is not always perceived as mutually beneficial. How does the comms pro build trust among journalists? How do you or your brand clients become the go-to source for a particular topic? What steps can you take to achieve the coverage your brand is looking for?

It’s critical for comms pros to build rapport with journalists and strengthen brand reputation, with the possibility of growing quality backlinks. But building that relationship requires media relations savvy.

Here are 10 essential tips every PR pro should know to achieve pitching success.

1. Read and evaluate the query

Read and evaluate each query carefully, particularly the requirements section. Do you meet all the journalist’s criteria? If yes, respond. If not, let it go. It’s a waste of your time and the journalist’s to respond to a source request if you aren’t a perfect fit. Don’t barrage the journalist with emails for queries that aren’t a good fit. It will only damage the relationship.

2. Respond quickly

Journalists often work with quick turnaround times. Pitch your expertise or story within an hour of the query going out, as that is the typical time frame journalists make up their minds about sources. However, if that is not feasible, you must still pitch within the published deadline.

3. Proofread and edit

Time is of the essence, but don’t neglect to proofread and edit your pitches. Journalists often quickly delete poorly written replies. Treat each pitch, no matter how short, as if it were a cover letter for a coveted job. Try using Grammarly’s free editor. You can copy and paste your work and it will quickly identify common typos.

4. Stay on topic

Journalists are looking for real-world expertise and stories, and they can easily detect a fluffy pitch. Stay on topic. Cision, which created Help a Reporter Out (HARO), a free service that fosters collaboration between journalists and PR sources, doesn’t allow its users to share press releases. Do not use HARO to share a press release, tout credentials, or pitch a product, unless the query asks for this information.

5. Be brief

Keep your pitches less than 300 words. If you can get your point across with even less, then do so. Also, don’t send attachments, which can contain viruses. Instead, use services such as Google or Dropbox to send links to images or documents in your pitch.

6. Write in sound bites

Many journalists will quote directly from your response, especially if they’re on a tight deadline. The easier you make their job, the more likely you are to get cited. If you are replying to a source request on behalf of your client, directly reply with your client’s response. Do not reply solely with, “My client can speak about this.”

7. Include alternate contact information

This makes it easier for journalists to reach you and allows them to choose the platform that’s most convenient. Include your phone number, email address, website, and social media handles.

8. Build relationships with the media

Emailing or calling a journalist repeatedly will get you nowhere. But you can establish common interests and share their articles on social media. Your first pitch might not have been accepted, but your second or third might because of the relationship you’ve established. Do not harvest a journalist’s contact information for an unsolicited pitch.

9. Turn your pitches into a content marketing machine

Not all of your pitches are going to be accepted, but don’t let the content go to waste. Wait a month after the source request closes. Then, dust your replies off and turn them into content for your brand’s site or blog.

10. Track your efforts

Monitor all pitching efforts, including those you make through HARO. Test your subject lines, pitch content, and media relations tactics. Keep testing and refining until you hit the sweet spot and start winning more publicity.


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