Writing pitches that don’t stink

Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer and inventor of “Stink-b-Gone” pitch spray, Matt Purdue. 

Imagine you’re at a cocktail party. (I do it all the time. In fact, I’m practicing for one right now.) This guy comes up to you:

guaranteedfreshHi. Can I puh-lease talk to you for a minute? I promise I’m really interesting. In fact, I’m one of the premier providers of cocktail party conversation. So can we talk? Puh-lease?”

Now imagine you’re at another cocktail party. (You sure do attend a lot of cocktail parties. People are starting to wonder about you.) This guy comes up to you:

“Hi. Excuse me, but I couldn’t help but overhear you talking about indie book stores. Aren’t they cool? Don’t you wish they got more love? Well, the other day I found this cool new search engine for ordering books from independent stores. Would you like to check it out on my phone?”

Granted, this guy seems a bit dorky to be so into indie book stores, but I’m trying to make a point here. Which guy do you think is more likely to be invited to join the conversation?

Unfortunately for our profession, too many of us are like the first guy when we write media pitches. We let our clients convince us that they are so fascinating that of course the media will fawn all over them at the mere mention of their name. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

As a former journalist, I’m all too aware of the stresses and challenges facing today’s reporters and producers. If you want to engage them, here are four tips to improve your pitching:

1. Listen. Listen to (and read about) what your media targets are writing about and – just as important – what their audiences care about.
2. When you sit down to write your pitch, lead with this news, not your client. Reporters are trained and paid to sniff out stories, not promote spokespeople.
3. Better yet, lead with the problem(s) that are challenging your media target’s audiences. A reporter doesn’t care that your client just published a new fat-free cookbook. Your reporter cares that her readers hate fat-free food because it’s bland and lifeless.
4. Moreover, lead with today’s news – or, better yet, what’s going to happen tomorrow. Sadly, I see too many pitches that offer up a spokesperson to talk about a general subject but forget to mention why the reporter should talk to this person right now.
5. Bring in stats and third-party support. Many clients are loath to let you mention another organization or thought leader in a media pitch because they don’t want to share the spotlight. But to a journalist, facts and trends are gold. Don’t hesitate to mention survey data or another leading voice that supports your angle – as long as they don’t come from a competitor, natch.

In short, if you want to write more effective media pitches, start thinking less like a marketer and more like a journalist.

2 thoughts on “Writing pitches that don’t stink

  1. Also, limit your pitch to 3 sentences. No reporter wants to read a boring essay as a pitch.

  2. Well said! I would also that it’s important to not just have a generic subject line. It’s hard enough to get a reporter’s attention as it is, and a subject like “Client X on Trending Topic #1” will at least help you get in the door.