Tips for Making Better Pitches to National Media

Brooke Wylie

Brooke Wylie

Many of us don’t realize what national media resources we have right in our own backyard. I attended a PRSA event in Chicago recently at which we heard from a panel of journalists from the Chicago bureaus of Al Jazeera America, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and the Financial Times. They provided some great intel on how their outlets are evolving – with most saying that social media is becoming increasingly important (In fact, all WSJ reporters are now equipped with iPhones so that they can upload video to their WorldStream video database on the go!).

But what the room was dying to hear was – how do we get our clients into the pages of your outlets? Here are the key tips – straight from the panelists themselves – on how best to pitch national media:

· READ the publication – The panel expressed how shocked they are by the number of pitches they receive from PR professionals that are so off base from what the publications actually runs. Do your homework!

· Educate your clients – They understand that we often feel pressure from clients to get into certain publications, but we need to be honest and straightforward with clients on what is realistic.

· Personalize each pitch – Don’t send generated email blasts – make it personal to who you are pitching. For example, call out an article you saw that they covered in the headline to get their attention, and so they know it isn’t a generic email blast

· Just because they work from the Chicago bureau, doesn’t mean they are interested in writing about Chicago-based companies – The WSJ reporter called out that each bureau will often cover a specific beat, so look for the reporter that makes sense for the category your story falls into, not just proximity.

· Don’t pitch products, pitch IDEAS – They noted that they will rarely just write about a product (unless it’s Apple, they said) – you should pitch them ideas or trends that your product falls into and they will be more likely to cover it.

· Don’t spend extra time creating video to pitch to national outlets – They likely have their own production/film crews so they rarely will include your video (with broll being an exception)

· For TV, show how the story is visual – Some ideas are great but not visual, so explain to the producer how it would look on air.

· For desk sides, pitch meetings during a time that their industry is topical – Reporters are more likely to agree to a meet and greet when it’s a topical time for the category as a whole, so they can start building the relationship then (and eventually come to YOU for a quote or opinion on a trend).

· And finally, pitch like a reader not like a PR person – We need to take the PR lenses off sometimes when we are writing a pitch to really think about what readers would be interested in learning about. The panelists said we are often too focused on the client’s interests and forget about what story people would actually want to pick up and read.

Brooke Wylie is a Senior Account Executive for Ketchum Chicago where she specializes in media relations and works with clients in the food and auto industries. Before taking the leap into PR, she worked in television production on shows like The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah and The Rosie Show.


2 comments on this post.
  1. Jessica Haspel:

    Ms. Wylie,
    Hello! My name is Jess Haspel and I am currently a senior at Southeast Missouri University. I am majoring in public relations with a marketing minor and am graduating in December. Pitching is a huge huge thing in PR and while reading this post, you had many great ideas. You did say that when we pitch, we need to pitch like a reader and not like a PR person. I have heard this before and have taken it into accountability while giving my personal pitches. One thing that may be a small detail but something that people say is important, is clothing. I know it may vary from company to company but what is the proper attire while pitching? Hair up or down for girls, jewelry or no? I would just like an opinion from someone in the field who has already made these national pitches. It is always important making good first impression and appearance could be the deal breaker. Thank you so much!!


  2. Culpwrit:

    Interesting questions, Jess. For in-person pitches I recommend determining the dress code of the organization you are visiting. In most cases it will be business casual, but some financial organizations prefer business attire. I’m not an expert on hair styles or jewelery, but female colleagues tell me to keep both conservative.

Leave a comment