Pitch perfect – how to write the compelling brief that journalists can’t ignore

A PR professional would be so happy and excited when a story of his or her clients story gets published. A lot of hard work and thinking would have gone into creating a compelling and strategically well-directed pitch to the publication to get the end results. A great and interesting pitch will always excite a journalist to look at the story and take it forward; but a pitch that is not focussed and without a great idea will never see the light of day. We all know writing a pitch note is an art and one has to meticulously craft and rewrite it several times before arriving at that killer strategy or peg that will compel the journalist to convert it into a story.

Another interesting point to note is we should also understand the journalist well and his way of thinking and writing stories. One should also be able to deeply think if the story is news worthy before writing the pitch note. These days you need not limit to e-mail pitching. You can also reach them through social media to get a faster response and get the story initiated fast, if the journalist spots an opportunity for an interesting story angle. So, what really drives a good pitch note?

Key drivers for a good pitch:

  1. Define your objective, target audience and your key message
  2. Understand the category well. One needs to do a lot of homework here
  3. A deep dive into research will help you to cull out great insights
  4. Have a focussed approach and get your points clearly across to the journalist
  5. Substantiate your pitch with sufficient support points to make your story very credible.
  6. Brainstorming with your team members will help you draw fresh ideas
  7. Make your pitch note very tight and crisp so that the essence is captured easily for the journalist to comprehend
  8. The storytelling approach will also help you to make your case stronger
  9. Look innovatively and think out of box to grab the attention of the journalist
  10. Finally, it helps if you have a strong relationship. It can strengthen your case with the journalist

Preparing a pitch note does not come overnight. It is through sheer experience, knowledge and voracious reading that one will be able to master the same as one grows in the PR profession. One of the major roles of PR consultants today is to help and advise their clients on what kind of strategy that can and will work when they plan a story and hence, it is equally important for the client also to share a sharply focussed brief to achieve the desired results. To get an in-depth perspective on what goes into a well thought out pitch note to the journalist, Adgully spoke to some PR industry experts to seek their valuable thoughts and insights.

Sharing his views on what goes into a pitch story, Jaideep Shergill, Co-Founder, Pitchfork Partners Strategic Consulting, said that the first thing one should remember is to find out if the journalist is interested in a story, not in a brand or product. And make sure that you have a truly genuine story. The second most important thing to remember is that the journalist is talking to a specific audience – business, consumer, citizen, trade, etc., so ask yourself if the story is relevant to that journalist’s audience. Adding further on the focus of the media pitch, Shergill suggested writing the pitch story in the way that the journalist would think. “Go out of box and look at innovative ways to pitch your story by sharing it on a video or presenting infographics with your notes to make the pitch forceful. The journalist should get a real feel of the product, so think differently to grab his attention,” he advised.

Giving her opinion on how to make the story pitch exciting, Ruby Sinha, Managing Director, Kommune Brand Communications, said that a story pitch should be crisp, factual, relevant and topical to make it compelling for a journalist. Like Shergill, Sinha, too, stressed on having an in-depth understanding of the publication’s target readership, writing style of the particular journalist and possible story angles based on current or upcoming industry trends. “In an agency environment, this requires collaboration between the client servicing, media pitching and content/ graphics team to ensure optimal results,” she added.

On where should the key focus be in the media pitch, Sinha noted that normally journalists get multiple story pitches in a day and hence, a media pitch should be unique with a compelling news peg to grasp his/ her attention. The subject line of the email is especially important and it has to be brief, with a news hook to grab the journalist’s attention so that he/she opens the mail. “Remember, you are pitching a story and integrating your company or brand subtly into it. Avoid lengthy emails, keep the pitch simple and brief. An interesting infographic condensing key data points always helps,” she added.

Along similar lines, Akshaara Lalwani, CEO and Founder Communicate India, too said that pitching compelling storylines and sources formed the crux of any PR strategy, followed by effectively crafting your story. “With media dynamics changing by the day, one needs to clearly decode the client’s objective clearly to align them respectively in the pitch to present the right perspective to the media. There is a staggering number of pitch requests that the journalist will receive, so it’s imperative to have an indepth knowledge about one’s clients’ business to create a winning media pitch which will interest the target audience,” she added.

On what should one focus on in the media pitch, Lalwani emphasised on the importance of research and added that one should be in sync with the media trends and media conversation to find out what really interests the journalists and how you can help in contributing to that beat. She further said, “A well-crafted media pitch should clearly focus on and look at the newsworthiness angle which will strongly communicate the client’s information to turn into a good story.”

One needs to look at two simple things when working on a story pitch. Elaborating on this, Kavita Lakhani, Executive Director, Golinopinion, said, “The secret to successfully drawing attention to your pitch is to have a compelling “Why”. Why does your business matter? Why is it different or better? What is so interesting that people, including readers of the publication, should pay attention?” The other point that she made was to give the reporter more than one potential story angle of why and how they can share the story with their audience. A simple bullet point style list of story options gives more opportunities for the reporter to say yes. 

Regarding what one should focus on, Lakhani stressed on avoiding templated pitches and instead talk upfront about the exciting component of one’s brand or product. “Get the right journalist for the pitching and make it a point to read about what that reporter has written in the past and accordingly craft the pitch. Journalists look for evidence and credibility, so furnish all relevant data to help him shape the story,” she advised. 

Meanwhile, Tarunjeet Rattan, Managing Partner, Nucleus PR, said, “If you are making the pitch on a call, then mention your story idea in the first 2 minutes to capture the journalist’s attention and then back it up with details and an email. On the other hand, if you are making an email pitch, then make sure that the subject line is catchy enough and will compel the journalist to read it. Highlight the story idea and state your value proposition in clear and concise manner. Your tone of the mail counts and will make a huge difference, so carefully craft your mail which should be polite and not demanding.”

Rattan further added that the PR professional needs to back their pitch with research, numbers and all the relevant reports that will help the journalist. “Finally, take care of the way the mail is presented and ensure that it is simple and easy to read without any over use of fonts and colours,” she concluded.


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