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Pitching Your Story

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  • Telephone calls are the most effective way to communicate with reporters. Pitch calls are essential to an effective media strategy. Reporters are on paper overload—chances are they never saw your faxed release or advisory.
  • Target your reporters. Contact reporters who cover your issue, and reporters you have a relationship with. If you have to make a “cold call,” ask the general assignment editor or producer who you should speak to, or look at the publication’s web site to find out which reporter covers your topic.
  • Find a “hook” for your story. Show the reporter how your story is significant, dramatic, timely, controversial, or impacts a lot of readers.
  • Always pitch the story first, and then ask if they received your release or advisory. Immediately capture the interest of the reporter—they won’t wait for you to get to the point.
  • Always ask if the reporter has a moment to talk with you. If the reporter is “on-deadline,” he or she will be distracted and not hear your pitch. Alwasy begin your pitch call by asking “Is this a good time?” If the reporter says he or she is on deadline, ask when would be a good time to call back.
  • Keep the pitch short and punchy. Reporters don’t have time for long pitch calls, so get to the most interesting and important information in the first 30 seconds. Don’t forget the Who, What, Where, When, and Why—give them the critical information.
  • Be enthusiastic and helpful. If you’re not excited about your story, why should the reporter be?
  • Never lie to a reporter. They may not like what you have to say, but they must respect you.
  • Be considerate of deadlines. Pitch calls are best made in the mid-morning (9:30 to noon), or after 2 pm on Friday if your event is taking place on a weekend. If you sense a reporter is rushed or impatient, ask them if they are on deadline and offer to call back.
  • Only pitch one reporter per outlet. If you do talk to more than one person (which sometimes is necessary), make sure the other reporter knows that you’ve talked with someone else.
  • Close the deal. Ask the reporter if they are interested or if they are coming to the event. Most will not commit over the phone but they will think about it.
  • Offer to send information if they don’t commit to attend your event. (Remember to send the information right away.)
  • Don’t get frustrated. Pitch calls can be frustrating when reporters don’t bite. But remember that every phone call keeps your issue and organization on their radar screen and is an important step in building an ongoing professional relationship with reporters.