5 minute read

Mastering the pitch: Tried and tested strategies for smarter PR

Journalists are flooded with emails and pitches. With there being around six PRs to every journalist nowadays, their inboxes are waterlogged. They exist in a bog of emails and pitches. But how can you get them to open your email, how do you hook them with your pitch?

A well-written pitch is a key tool when aiming to obtain media coverage. At least 60% of journalists find pitches useful to their work and use them to aid their stories. Your initial goal is to get the journalist to open your email. The second is to get them to read the whole of your pitch. The third is to get them to write a story on it, to get your client in front of a relevant audience.

You only have one chance to hook a journalist, so your pitch must be honed and sharp. To ensure a big cast and catch, a pitch should be short, catchy, relevant, and, above all, interesting. If it is interesting, it should be possible to explain why it is interesting in very few words.

Read on to see how you can master the pitch and get that open rate close to 100% and get your ideas seen by more people.

How to get your business school in the FT

What does an excellent pitch look like?

Make sure that your pitches are short and concise. A pitch should be 200 words or fewer. Most journalists like a pitch between 100-200 words. A journalist simply is unlikely to scroll down on an email. To ensure you are sticking to the point throughout the pitch, and keeping the journalist’s attention, keep your pitch to short, declarative sentences. It has to get to the point hard and fast.

The best way to ensure your pitch is to the point, and that your email gets opened, and that your story gets picked up, is to ensure that you have an engaging, eye-catching subject line. You need to demonstrate as quickly as possible why your story is important, why it is worth a journalist’s time to open your email and read what it contains.

To create a great subject line, think of what you would like the headline of the published piece to be when it is printed, and use that as your subject line. If you are struggling to think of a good line, have a look around for headlines that have been published on similar topics or look into the tone of headlines the journalist you are pitching to uses. Making sure that your subject line you pick is under half a dozen words also aids pickup, as brevity is attractive in a potential headline.

In the main body of the pitch, focus on creating a concise and captivating narrative that clearly communicates the significance of your story. Make sure your opening line is punchy and contains the most attention-grabbing and publishable material. If you have them, include data, statistics, or examples to support your claims and emphasise the broader impact. Data is becoming more and more important in journalism, to differentiate it from the hubbub of opinion (of which there is more and more). Keep the language clear, avoid jargon, and highlight any notable individuals or organisations involved. Conclude with a call to action, inviting the recipient to learn more or schedule an interview. Personalise your pitch to make it engaging and memorable.

compose email

How to send your pitch to a journalist

To increase your chances of success, make sure that you are sending your pitches to relevant journalists at relevant publications. Journalists will ignore you if you send them too many irrelevant pitches, and you could potentially lose them as a contact forever. Research has shown that 3 in 4 journalists will block a PR professional who spams them with irrelevant pitches. Take some time to find the right publications and the right journalists. The better the relationships you build with journalists, the better your career as a PR will go. Tying your story to world events or what is driving the media cycle is always a good idea.

Know the readers of the publication journalist the writes for. Take some time to peruse the site or pages of the publication. Try to think your way into the journalist’s shoes and think your way into their interests. This shouldn’t be hard: you yourself are a consumer of news (and as PR, probably an avid one). Also keep in mind that publications will have a content plan, so consider content that is relevant to the time of year or special events, days, and months.

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Hit the target

Make sure to be as targeted as you can. Journalists receive a huge number of irrelevant pitches. You can stand out by making sure that your pitches are relevant to their beat. If you have a great story, then avoid the email blast (which is easy to spot) and go for the more targeted approach, one with a personal touch, that notes that you have read a couple of pieces by the journalist, one which sympathises with them, one which offers them value. The best thing you can be seen to be doing for a journalist is offering them value. Find the right journalist, offer them something good and worthwhile, and you can have a career, or even life-long relationship with that journalist, one that can bear fruit for both of you. The best kind of PR forms a mutually beneficial symbiosis with journalism.

The best way to go about things long-term is to cultivate authentic relationships with journalists. A journalist who trusts you and then comes to you with stories is gold dust in the PR world. Read what the journalists you are pitching to write – that is the best way to their hearts, and to flow into the ink which they write with. Try to keep a relationship going even when you don’t have something to pitch. Connect with them on LinkedIn and congratulate them on great pieces of work.

You need to build up a credible reputation. If someone knows who you are, you are much more likely to have your emails opened, and that way, much more likely to have your pitches end up in the media. A switch from blasting pitches to journalists to starting a relationship means that you are much more likely to find a journalist who writes about the subject matter relevant to your client.

No attachments

When sending your email, make sure that it is not burdened by attachments. A journalist is more likely to send a pitch with an attachment straight to the bin and might even hit the block button. If you have to send photos or visuals, make sure to send them as a link in the text of your email.

In summary

What journalists love

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Pet loves of journalists:

  1. Provide short pitches with as many facts as possible that allow them to create content and stories quickly.
  2. Getting replies back quickly and within deadlines.
  3. Understand their target audience and what they might find interesting of relevant.
  4. Provide data and expert sources.

What journalists hate

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Other pet hates of journalists:

  1. Providing inaccurate information.
  2. Sending pitches that sound like marketing copy.
  3. Following up repeatedly and in a hassling manner.
  4. Not replying to enquiries.
  5. Not getting back within a deadline.
  6. Cancelling on them.

Some top info to influence when and how you pitch:

  • An astonishing 50% of journalists receive fewer than 10 pitches a day. So, get pitching!
  • Staff Editors are pitched the most.
  • Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are the best days to send pitches.
  • Some topics are more congested than others, the less congested the topic the more likely your pitch is to be picked up.
  • Most writers prefer a pitch to be between 100 and 200 words.
  • Journalists prefer no more than one follow-up email.
  • The best way to keep in touch with a journalist after pitching is by email, and by keeping on sending them relevant content.
  • Include data to optimise uptake.


Use these tips to maximise your success in pitching, and to get as many hits in the press for your clients as is possible. A well-written pitch can boost your chances of pickup immeasurably. With so many journalists finding pitches an aid to their work, it would be foolish to not craft and hone your pitch to perfection.

TomAuthor: Thomas Willis

Tom has a doctorate in English and Classics from University College London, a master’s in Classical Reception from UCL, and spent a year as a graduate researcher at Yale University. Spending so long in universities, Tom has an in-depth understanding of how they operate, and how they best work, he has developed a deep admiration for research, and wants nothing more than to see academic research read by more and affecting the world in powerful ways.

How to get your business school in the FT


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