Media Pitching Dos & Don’ts

Pitching reporters and garnering media placements is a huge part of public relations. While pitching can lead to great coverage of your organization or client, it can also be one of the more intimidating tasks you endure as a PR professional. Is your pitch too detailed? Not detailed enough? Will anyone respond? When is it okay to follow up?

We interviewed John Wenzel, Entertainment Reporter at The Denver Post, to get his thoughts on some of the questions that race through our minds when it’s time to send a pitch. Here’s what he had to say:

In your opinion, what are the ideal components of a pitch?

Be concise and locally relevant (specific to The Denver Post audience, anyway), and respect my time and intelligence.

What are your top three pitching “dos”?

1. Make it short and to the point (no hyperbolic or sensational subject lines)

2. Know who I am and what I cover

3. Include high-res image links

What are your top three pitching “don’ts”?

1. Don’t include a high-res image as an attachment

2. Don’t email me multiple times or call me on the phone

3. Don’t make any assumptions about how (if at all) I’m going to cover something

What are the things that will lead to a pitch getting tossed or ignored the quickest?

  • Misspellings or naming the wrong recipient/publication (including when it’s obvious that my name was simply copied and pasted onto a template)
  • Large attachments
  • Multiple recipients who aren’t BCC’ed
  • Flashy/cheap subject line
  • No local relevance to my readers
  • Not responding quickly and politely when I’m interested in something
  • Not making me feel like you’re doing your all to help me out

Is there an ideal time and format that you prefer to receive pitches?

In the mornings on weekdays (the earlier prior to an event, the better), and ideally via email.

How many days after the initial pitch is sent is it appropriate to follow up with you?

Two or three days.

A pitch typically doesn’t end with you. How can someone best equip you to pitch the idea to an editor and succeed?

  • Feel free to suggest story angles, as we might be interested in them, but don’t assume anything (like my background or level of interest, etc.)
  • Connect it to a local or national trend
  • Include data (numbers and financial figures) and real-world impact
  • Make me be able to envision it in the newspaper or online, but don’t try to manage the direction of the story

What was the best or most memorable pitch you ever received?

As someone who gets hundreds and often thousands of emails a day — as do most Denver Post reporters these days — the best pitches don’t stand out in and of themselves. The stories that they lead to do. But, honestly, none of my best or favorite stories came from PR pitches or press releases. If anything, those are only starting points (at best). No offense, PR folks!

About the Author: Reporter and critic John Wenzel has covered comedy, music, film, books, video games and other popular culture for The Denver Post for more than a decade. He’s the author of the Speck/Fulcrum nonfiction book “Mock Stars” and an occasional contributor to Rolling Stone, Esquire, Vice, The Guardian, Splitsider and others.