21 Tips on Pitching Journalists, From Journalists

Journalists and TV producers are regular people.

Shocking, I know. But if you are a small business owner who is looking for publicity, journalists, editors, columnists, and TV producers can seem like a very scary, rude, hard-to-reach bunch of people.

Well, the good news is not only are they normal, but they need stories and welcome pitches. They want to hear from you!

Last week, I attended a fabulous Speaker Series event sponsored by Her Corner in which two journalists – Joce Sterman of WJLA Channel 7 and Jennifer Nycz-Conner of the Washington Business Journal – shared numerous tips on how to pitch them. Here’s what I learned:

1. If a journalist is rude or rushed on the phone, they don’t mean to be; they are likely on a tight deadline and dealing with a bit of a crisis.

2. Pitch first thing in the morning.

3. If you are pitching a timely story to TV news producer, make yourself available – that news story has to be ready by 1:30pm for the evening news.

4. If you are pitching a print/digital journalist, earlier in the week tends to be better (depending on when digital issues publish).

5. Journalists love 3 kinds of stories: tied to hot news topics; human interest; exclusives.

6. Do not offer exclusives to more than one journalist. It’s not cool to say, “Oh sorry, I already gave it to So-and-So.” Not. Cool.

7. Puppies and kids are almost sure-fire bets for a good human interest story. Seriously.

8. Interview subjects must be “human,” which means knowledgeable, approachable, and comfortable in front of a camera.

9. Pitch via email, as journalists check their email first thing every morning.

10. Pitch via a handwritten note or product sample – it will definitely stand out as mail is scarce in the news room.

11. Following up on your pitch is perfectly fine. Be persistent, but don’t cross the line into pest territory.

12. Don’t pitch a finished piece – journalists like to shape the story.

13. Once your pitch is accepted, the story is out of your hands. You cannot control a story, approve questions for an interview beforehand, or ask to see the piece before it goes live, so don’t even ask.

14. Starting with smaller, local publications is a smart way to get noticed. Journalists read local news for story ideas!

15. Keep pitches super short and to the point.

16. Include links in your pitch, but do not include large files, photos, or press kits.

17. If you have photos or videos the journalist can use, definitely let them know.

18. Know your journalist’s beat and angle a story idea to fit his or her audience.

19. If you have a story idea for something that is a few months’ out, go ahead and pitch it now to get on the journalists’ radar.

20. Don’t bother sending press releases. They are dead – at least to journalists. It is still OK to write them and post them to your site under “news” as a point of reference.

21. You don’t need a PR firm to pitch journalists for you. You do need a PR firm for crisis control; their team can think clearly for you when your head is spinning.

What else do you want to know about pitching journalists? I’ll try to find the answers!

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