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Tips For Pitching Stories To The Media

By Michael Millar

Pitching Stories to writers must be the bit PR pros dread the most. Journalists possess a reputation for being hostile, cantankerous sorts. But, ironically, it tends to be those same PR people who make hacks act in that way.

Being a journalist I tend to be quite busy. Press deadlines are usually amongst the shortest of any trade across the globe. The last thing I need is anybody bothering me with something I don’t want. A whole lot worse, people pester you using a story they don’t seem to know themselves. Despite my best efforts, I can’t read minds.

The act of pitching is much like bungee jumping, when you’ve carried out the right prep work then it’s all downhill after that and the chances are high you’ll emerge from it unscathed.

Before you start to get your hands on the phone or send away your news release make sure you’ve ticked off the following:

* The reason this specific story is good for the audience of the writers I’m phoning. That’s all journalists care about: how will this benefit their audience, even if it’s merely something that can keep their spirits up whilst they’re trapped in a traffic jam or in an airport terminal waiting for a jet;

* Have a distinct top line pertaining to the story. What exactly is the one most crucial idea that you want to place in floodlights? **Remember** This isn’t what will automatically be the element which makes your organisation look the most amazing…it’s got to be the element that will interest the target audience the most . (Happily both these things are generally inseparable in a good story about a organisation). This specific phase is about getting that interview booked in (or, indeed, done immediately). After you’ve got past this difficulty you’ll be able to say whatever you like;

* Be aware of the subject matter.You have to be in a position to answer pretty much any reasonable query in relation to your story…It’s your story all things considered;

* When you’re looking to arrange an interview with a journalist, whether it’s Television, radio, on the web or print, be certain that you’re actually available to do it.

In brief, getting the reporter interested is everything. You’d have to honestly, really do something horrible, like swear at a writer or offend them in some manner to turn them off a story that they like. Once a reporter likes a story, it is really – or should be – like a doggy with a bone, because that is information that can be used and made available to their readers, if you like, so they won’t give up on the article.

Journalists’ careers live and die by their contacts and the facts they supply. If you carry out this correctly you’ll be a helping hand, not an impediment.

Timing is important wherever PR is involved. This means you need to have a vague understanding of when the most desirable time to pitch is.

Whenever you’re phoning up a daily paper, don’t phone them at the end of the afternoon when they’re usually on deadline. That makes writers mad, as previously mentioned. Telephone them in the morning, phone them early afternoon, soon after lunchtime. People tend to be a bit more calm.

If it’s a local weekly, as an example, you can be confident it went to the printers a day or two before it landed on the high street). So attempt to give them a call towards the beginning of their week when possible. That’s when they’re taking a look in sadness at the empty pages and wondering what on earth they’re likely to put in.

If it’s a web page or blogging site, you can most likely pitch to them any time you like.

In addition, have everything all set to go when you call:

* Comprehend your most crucial few points very clearly and practise delivering these to somebody else to make sure of clarity;

* if someone says on the telephone, right, we’d like to come down and film later today, or we’d like more information, you have to have that good to go. You can’t be stalling them while you put it together;

* It’s possible to say to writers that your story is ‘under embargo’ until a date that best suits you – usually midnight at the start of the day you have selected (however, they’ve nothing besides a moral obligation to stick to that).

* Timing is also key in terms of what other news is out there. Look around and ask if the story is going to be blown away by the flood of news already out there.

On the other hand you could possibly get someone else to organise everything on your behalf.

Are you presently part of a trade group or similar? Good associations usually act as lobby groups and so are regularly seeking smaller companies who can demonstrate a certain point. So if you’re a recruitment advisor and there’s a news story about rising unemployment, then advise them you could talk about this ‘from the coal face’.

Acquiring case studies such as this is very difficult for journos and they often approach trade bodies to ask for help. If you are part of one of those organisations it pays to let that organisation know that you’d be pleased to say a couple of words on a certain issue.

Your pitch might not come off the first time, perhaps even the first few times – however remarkable and time consuming it has been. Attempting to second guess journalists is impossible. I certainly am unable to do it. Many’s the time I have pitched content to an editor that I assumed were a dead certainty, simply to be told they weren’t interested.

Hopefully, as someone who is part of a small company, you’ll be made of sterner stuff compared to most. Being knocked back is a common part of professional life. But you should stick with it, because using the press to your advantage can make a huge difference to your company.

One further, heartening thought. Everyone – including journalists – have a soft spot for individuals working away trying to build up their company. A journo will be impressed you’ve put the effort and hard work in to help yourself and will give you a much easier time compared to what they would give a Public relations company.

About the author: Michael Millar offers PR advice for small businesses at, a free blog for business owners who want to boost their brand by doing their own PR work. Visit the site to get free guides on everything from writing press releases to surviving a tough interview. Michael also presents How To PR, an 80 minute film about PRing your small business.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Millar, Michael "Tips For Pitching Stories To The Media." Tips For Pitching Stories To The Media. 29 Jan. 2012. 2 Aug 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Millar, M (2012, January 29). Tips For Pitching Stories To The Media. Retrieved August 2, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Millar, Michael "Tips For Pitching Stories To The Media"

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