That reporter’s not looking for a commercial
It may be my favorite pitch lead of all time:
This Korbel pitch — a PRSA Silver Anvil Award winner — sells a story, not sparkling wine. And that’s what you want to do, too.
The writer goes on to offer:
- A timely angle (more people get engaged on Valentine’s Day than on any other day of the year
- A helpful tipsheet (“Top Ten Signs He’s about to Pop the Question”)
- Provocative story angles (a “be prepared” piece, an article telling men how to avoid giving away the big surprise, the results of a proposal survey, an interview with an “engagement expert.”)
Then contact information and a signoff — “Cheers!” of course.
Take a tip from Korbel: Use your pitch to sell a story, not your product. Focus on entertainment, a benefit to the reader or a timely survey. Don’t just pitch a commercial.
Write a story, not a sales piece.
To make sure your pitch is relevant to reporters and their readers:
- Find a poster child. Instead of writing about your product, service or issue, write about someone who’s affected by it.
- Focus on what your spokesperson will say. Instead of running a lengthy bio, pre-interview your subject matter expert. Does she have a contrarian opinion or offer a fresh point of view? That — and not a list of which boards she sits on — is the story.
- Leave your company name out of the headline. Newspapers rarely put company or product names in headlines. To do so on your pitch “shouts to the journalist that this is a commercial for blank,” says Jeff Crilley, founder of Real News PR and author of Free Publicity.
- Skip the trademark symbols and repeated capitalized product and company names. They’re not necessary in an informal emailed pitch, and they scream “commercial,” says Michael Schiferl, senior vice president/director of media relations for Weber Shandwick Worldwide.
- Focus on the story. “Go buy a bunch of the current magazines in the field, peruse those, get in the mindset of the editor and see how things are framed,” advises NASA PR pro Nicole Cloutier. “Then step away and let it gel.”
NASA pitches space food.
That approach allows NASA’s Cloutier to go beyond “what’s happening tomorrow” by digging up real stories like this one for media pitches:
How do you prepare a tasty Thanksgiving meal that must be packaged months in advance, sent to Russia for shipping, require no refrigeration, and be eaten without creating crumbs?
I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out. Because it’s a story, not a commercial.
Source: “Perfect Email Pitches: Master PR Scribes Reveal How to Craft Copy That Turns Heads and Earns Media Ink,” Bulldog Reporter’s PR University teleseminar, Sept. 18, 2008