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The Elusive Art of Pitching

Published on April 17, 2018, at 1:11 p.m.
by Cara Bolt.

Is pitching an elusive art? As a public relations practitioner, it’s frustrating when you spend hours crafting the perfect pitch, only for it to never receive placement. Media specialists from Ketchum Chicago, The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and the city of Huntsville, Alabama, share how they craft and send the perfect pitches.

Savannah Bass-Koplon, a media specialist at UAB, said that the ideal length of a pitch varies. “A longer pitch can help you paint the picture for the journalist, which can be very important. When I pitch to [academic] experts on behalf of UAB, I write shorter pitches, which are no more than three sentences.”

Shannon Frieser, a media specialist at Ketchum Chicago, said that she likes to pepper in personal anecdotes to hook a reporter.

“I first pitch them and wait a day or so. If I don’t have a response, I write a follow-up email. After that, I call them,” she explained.

Photo via Creative Commons

“Set yourself up for success, and never call during a breaking news event,” Frieser added. “Always ask, ‘Is now a good time to chat real quick?’”

When it comes to phone pitching, Jessica Carlton, a digital media specialist, encourages students to practice. “It’s funny how certain things stick with you. I had the immense pleasure of being a part of the speech team at The University of Alabama under Director Dr. Frank Thompson. He had a sign on his office door that read, ‘Discomfort is a necessary part of the process of enlightenment.’ When you’re just starting out, the idea of pitching can be intimidating. This quote is something I keep in mind often and is a good reminder that — whether you are pitching a story or pushing yourself to take a bold step — being uncomfortable is normal. It’s how we grow and learn.”

Development Counsellors International (DCI) shares tips on phone pitching, the number one being setting the table. According to DCI, a successful phone pitch will always be backed by research. The company provides a list of do’s and don’ts of phone pitching, some of which are practice, personalize the pitch, don’t be pushy and don’t leave a voicemail.

Photo via Creative Commons

What’s a common mistake young practitioners make? According to Frieser, “The number one mistake is that practitioners can be too broad or vague.” She elaborated that tailoring a pitch is an important and sometimes overlooked aspect of pitching.

Frieser has adopted her own method for finding reporters to pitch to. “I go a little backward and start with the ideal outlet, find a topic or keyword similar to mine, and go to the social media account of the reporter,” she explained.

Koplon shared that she researches people and takes it a step further by following them on social media and actively engaging with their content. “There’s a very fine line that gets into stalker territory, but if this is done right you can build relationships with journalists,” she noted.

Social media pitching is increasing in popularity. A PRNews article outlines six “do’s and don’ts” of social media pitching, ranging from fact-checking and not being overly casual.

Overall, these media specialists encouraged building relationships with reporters and to step outside one’s comfort zone.

Thanks to their advice, young professionals will be equipped to successfully make their first pitches.

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