Baseball pitching vs. public relations pitching – what do they have in common?

You strike out a lot.

With baseball season in full swing, we decided tying PR “pitching” with the subject of baseball pitching was timely as our own Colorado Rockies season kicks off.

Pitching is a tough game to win in the world of public relations. It’s the subject almost all professionals have differing opinions concerning, and the part of our profession that demands you be constantly up to speed on what the news trends are and how to tie them into your own clients.

Though hard-hitting at times – there are still at least five different “pitching laws” that most would agree are nonnegotiable. Below are five successful tips for pitching your story to a reporter:

  1. Pitch the Story, not the Product

This is what grabs a large number of people. Think about it: do you become highly interested in hearing that there’s a new Italian restaurant in town? Not really. But, if you hear that it’s family run by two brothers who immigrated to America with their grandmother’s 100-year-old recipe for pizza sauce, or that every Thursday they host a happy hour wine tasting of Italian wines … you might have your ears perked a bit more.

Pitch the story, not the product. Writers are looking for pitches that offer a story they can put their own spin on. If all you provide is information with no story, you offer nothing to hook the writer, which means you also offer nothing the writer can see to entice the readers.

  1. Be Short. Be Straight. Get Out of the Way.

Get to the point. Don’t use long emails about the company. To be truthful, as a freelance writer, I can assure you that most reporters are too swamped to process credentials. If there’s a credential or a tie that needs to be emphasized, emphasize it in the beginning.

Tell the story of why it’s important to the writer’s readership within the first sentence – and consider their readership. I write about eating disorders and that’s strictly it. When I get a pitch about drug addiction, I ignore it immediately. Be straight, and have a good angle that shows you understand what makes news.

Craft an outline of the story for the writer. Let the writer know who they can interview (both internal to your client and external if that makes sense), provide relevant website links, attach photos or videos, or offer ideas for images.

  1. Find the Right Contact

So often, the kiss of death is sending a pitch to editor@anypublication.com. These emails almost always go in a black hole that no one sees except for the occasional intern.

It’s important to research what journalists are writing about your industry. Browse articles online and look at their bylines. Find the contact page and the editor in charge of that section. Once you do, read more of their writing so you get to know what they’re interested in. If it’s relevant to a past article they’ve written, quote that. A little extra TLC – “I see you recently covered {subject line}. I have a client who’s done research on {relevant info}, if you’d be interested in covering that?”

  1. Timeliness

Read the news; stay with the trends, and pitch with a well-parlayed news hook. If you can relate your pitch to a current event or human interest story, you have a more distinct shot at gaining the reporter’s attention. Be careful, though—the news hooks must be tactful, non-exploitative and can’t seem overreaching. Basically, you need to be able to back it up.

Don’t just focus on what you (or your client) wants to say, but think about how it fits into a larger trend. Telling a reporter about your client’s new product/service will be a much harder sell than talking to them about a new trend that your client is a part of.

  1. Supply the Info

Most people tend to forget to provide context for their client, but if a reporter is interested, it’s best to have all facts right there for them to click on or easily investigate on their own time.

You could stand out more by stating a few simple facts:

  • Your name and title
  • Company (hyperlinked – always hyperlink)
    • A two sentence or less description of what your company does and how it fits into the market – or what makes it unique
  • Credibility markers such as recently published guest posts in other publications, links to in-depth, high-quality content published on your blog, LinkedIn, Medium, etc., and recent awards won or recognition by authoritative sources (Again, don’t go overboard, though. Stick with the main ones!)