Peruse any journalist's Twitter account and you are bound to find a tweet about a terrible pitch they've received. Media relations is one of the most important skills for PR professionals to master—and you don't want your bad pitch to become fodder for a frustrated journalist.
Cherie Stewart, managing director and senior VP of APCO Worldwide San Francisco, will be revealing her pitching do's and don'ts at PR News' Writing Boot Camp on August 5 in San Francisco. She offers a preview of her email pitch writing clinic in the following Q&A.
PR News: What's your advice for communicators looking to build new relationships with journalists?
Cherie Stewart: To build a real relationship with a reporter, you need to be seen as an asset. And that will always go beyond your one specific client or brand.
This process can be broken down into three parts. First, research and follow the reporter (e.g. coverage, Twitter, blog). Then, find ways to push relevant industry knowledge and insider perspective. Finally, provide access to company spokespeople for off-topic stories whenever you can. For example, have a spokesperson available to comment on general management style, industry trends or current news.
PR News: Can you give an example of a perfect media pitch?
Stewart: There is no one-size-fits-all perfect pitch. And that is one of the biggest mistakes—thinking that one approach will fit every situation. Good pitching is hard and takes work. The best pitch fills a reporter’s needs, exactly when she or he needs it. But in absence of the stars aligning perfectly, there are some best practices that will give you a better chance at breaking through the noise.
First, do your homework by knowing the reporter (and his or her beat) and knowing enough information about the news or pitch yourself. You need to be able to answer first, second and third questions from the reporter.
PR News: What's the best subject line you've seen? The worst?
Stewart: Here's the worst: Anything with an exclamation point or the word "revolutionary" in it.
The best subject lines start with the type of ask, such as “News Announcement: xyz”; “Industry Executive in Town: xyz”; and “Trending Story: xyz.” It’s not sexy, but it’s appreciated.
Follow Lucia Davis: @LKCDavis.