At The Content Factory, we frequently offer advice to PR pros pitching journalists. Some of the journalists we know get hundreds of pitches per day — so we’re very aware of how difficult it can be to break through the noise. The good news, however, is that we’ve developed a few tips and tricks along the way that will help you out.
Here are our faves:
1. Answer the Question. If the SourceBottle query is specifically asking questions (and they probably are) the absolute best way to get your pitch noticed is to actually answer the question. I know that sounds incredibly obvious, but you’d be surprised how many PR pros completely miss the mark on this one. They dance around the answer, but never actually stick the landing, which makes that email an entire waste of time for both parties.
Years ago, one journalist said to us, “If I’m writing about coffee cocktails, don’t pitch me about hot chocolate.” If you’re responding to a journalist, make sure you have something impactful to say that legitimately contributes to the story.
"If I’m writing about coffee cocktails, don't pitch me about hot chocolate."
2. Include Credentials. If you are (or your client is) highly qualified to respond to a query, be sure to say so. State your qualifications up front so the journalist knows whether or not your pitch is even worth reading. Is the journalist looking for plastic surgeons and you are literally a plastic surgeon? State that immediately. Give your credentials and whatever specializations you have (i.e. face lifts, liposuction, etc).
3. Get Creative. One of our PR pros on staff recently gave this advice to a person who’d signed up for one of our courses: “Answer the question, but in the most creative way you can think of.” This goes back to actually answering the question, and doing so in a way that you think others may not.
“Answer the question, but in the most creative way you can think of.”
4. Be Relevant. I wish we didn’t even have to point this out, but please be relevant. Pitching a journalist something completely out of left field isn’t helping anyone. If you can’t tie the query to your product in a way that makes any kind of sense, just don’t pitch it. Otherwise you’ll just become a screenshot of a terrible pitch we’re laughing at.
5. Be Quick. There’s something to be said for first mover advantage. Be on the lookout for SourceBottle queries that are relevant to you or your clients. The sooner you get in your response, the better. Some journalists — especially on a tight deadline — will go with the first sources available because that’s what they have time for. Ideally, they’ll sift through until they find the best, but we all know how deadlines work, and we don’t always have time for the extra effort.
The sooner you get in your response, the better.
6. Bring a Snack. I don’t mean literally send them food — what I mean is to give them a snackable soundbite. One journalist recently told students in our online course that she cannot quote someone if they provide less than three decent sentences.
The takeaway here is that you need to be able to give a solid paragraph in response to their question, or they might not be able to use it. Now, they can correct grammar and cut out what they don’t need, but if it’s not there, they can’t work with it.
7. Be Persistent — But Not Annoying. Recently, a very prolific and respected journalist (and TCF Teamlancer) told us about a PR pro who represented a business that was entirely out of her area of expertise. She ignored his pitches for years because she didn’t write about that industry.
When she finally read one of his pitches, she was shocked at how well he wove the unrelated business he represented with the subject matter at hand. It was legitimately shocking to her, and she ended up using him in a story. Now, the caveat here is that he didn’t badger her. He didn’t follow up relentlessly — he just kept doing his job, which was to respond to queries from journalists. Persistence pays off, but you can’t be annoying about it.
Persistence pays off, but you can’t be annoying about it.
8. Offer to Help Promote the Article. For better or worse, journalists are judged (at least in part) by the number of clicks their pieces are getting. Offer to do some of the heavy lifting for them by tweeting out their finished article if they include your quotes. This isn’t a guarantee, but it’s something that can leave a good impression on the journalist. And most importantly — actually do it once the piece goes live, and tag the journalist when you post.
9. I will offer one bonus piece of sage advice, and that is to develop a relationship with the journalist, and I don’t mean to force your interactions or slide into their DMs. I mean that you should keep in contact with them occasionally. Once a journalist quotes you, be sure to email a thank you note. Follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter (but not Facebook — that steps into borderline cyber stalking). Like their posts and respond when it feels appropriate and authentic.
Follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter (but not Facebook — that steps into borderline cyber stalking).
This part takes time, but is completely worth it. This could lead to additional placements for yourself or your clients simply because the journalist recognizes your name. If you send relevant, thoughtful pitches and you’re willing to follow-up with a thank you, that journalist is likely to remember that. If they see your name pop up, your email might be among the first they open, hoping to get a lead on a good source before they trudge through the seaweed.
While there are no guarantees in life or PR, I can say with certainty that following these techniques will help your SourceBottle pitches stand out to journalists. You’ll have to be persistent and flex those creative muscles, but it will be worth it when you generate all that media coverage for your business, or your clients. Trust me — I’ve been doing it for over a decade.
Kari DePhillips is the founder and CEO of The Content Factory, a digital PR agency that specializes in SEO.