5 Timeless Pitching Tips for PR Pros  

Mark Hamrick at the National Press Club

Sometimes even the most perfectly framed pitch isn't enough—you have to know when and where to deliver a pitch to gain media coverage. Mark Hamrick, business reporter, broadcast, online video producer for the Associated Press (and a former president of the National Press Club), offered practical advice on how PR professionals can best manage their relationships with journalists during his keynote address at PR News' recent Media Relations Conference in Washington, D.C.  

  1. Consider the news cycle: Every news cycle starts with a news hole to fill. When those hard news stories aren't around, journalists are left with a hole to fill, especially when there's a quiet time, such as a holiday weekend, said Hamrick. "News organizations know that the holiday weekend is likely going to be fairly slow. Same for weekends, in general, and Mondays."

  2. Research the journalist and the beat: "Of 100 pitches that come my way, 97% are non-starters. Pitches fail when PR pros don't consider what we do," said Hamrick, who covers breaking news and enterprise stories on the business and financial beat. Recently he has received pitches about bird feeding, hypnosis and election day anxiety.

  3. Hook the media, but deliver the goods: For journalists to move forward on a story, they must have a certain amount of information up front. "When teasing a major announcement, PR pros expect journalists to take the bait, show up on site and expect major news," said Hamrick. The best route is to prepare journalists as much as possible and give them an opportunity to prepare a story in advance, with an agreed-to embargo or release time. That way, they can get all of the content they need, such as an interview for radio, video or quotations for print.

  4. Know prime times for various formats: There are prime times for radio, print and online—and they don't all connect, said Hamrick. Radio is best during commute times; online video is best after people get seated at work, so beginning around 10 a.m. or so—that shifts as the time zones come into play across the U.S.; newspapers want stories ready for the morning paper; and TV has the morning and evening news shows, both local and network. 

  5. Deliver the ideal pitch: Since journalism tends to be a collaborative process in the newsroom, reporters need time to have a discussion and work out a process to get the story done, said Hamrick. "I prefer e-mail pitches," he said. "Phone calls are too hit and miss, and I don't want to be pitched via LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook." If you do get someone on the phone and can't sum up your pitch in 20 seconds, you haven't thought it through. Hamrick said most journalists know in 10 to 20 seconds if a pitch has legs. 

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg; Follow Mark Hamrick: @Hamrickisms