5 Tips to Make Your Pitching Game Perfect

Carl Cannon

Pitching is pitching—whether its traditional media or new media or traditional media, said Carl M. Cannon, Washington editor of RealClearPolitics. He would know—he is a past recipient of the Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prize for Distinguished Reporting and the Aldo Beckman Award, the two most prestigious awards for White House coverage.

In an analogy to baseball, Cannon said the goal is to get your pitch over the plate. "Lay a fat strike over the plate for a journalist to hit." At PR News' One-day Bootcamp for Emerging PR Stars, held on Nov. 29 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Cannon shared five tips to take you from the bullpen to the starting rotation.

  1. Know your audience: "All editors and producers for newspapers, magazine, radio, television and digital media all have similar pressures on their time, and all are bound by the same idea—is this story good for my outlet?" Cannon said. No matter how great your pitch is worded, if it's not the right fit, it won't be covered.

  2. Research the journalist: "I once got a pitch saying, 'Hi Carl, I was thumbing through your blog and felt your readers might find useful information in this book,'" Cannon said. "Well the problem is that I don't have a blog." Being inaccurate, and not knowing whom you're talking to in the first five words of your pitch, isn’t a good strategy.

  3. Understand urgency: In regard to deadlines, it helps to know your category of urgency. "In journalism, we operate under the concept of non-crisis and crisis (like PR pros do), hard and soft news, deadline or non-deadline," Cannon said. "On election night, solicitation for stories or features that had nothing with the campaign would get you blacklisted, essentially." 

  4. Be interesting and plausible, relevant, brief, direct and have a hard nose for the newsworthy: Got all those things? Good.

  5. Play the long game: “101 years ago Ambrose Bierce defined the word patience as 'a minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue,'" Cannon said. "A story may run much later than you intended, but if you stay with it—without necessarily bugging—it can sometimes be a virtue." Of course, it will probably have to be something that is more evergreen than pressing.


Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg, Follow Carl Cannon: @carlcannon