Blog — The Snow Report
Once you’ve got a compelling story idea, an expert source at the ready, and a particular journalist in mind, it’s time to write that pitch. How well this is done can be the difference between an interview and an express route to the trash bin. Consider following these simple steps for maximum likelihood of success.
Keep it Short
The journalist you’re contacting is likely under a current deadline. Chances are also excellent that they constantly receive unprompted story suggestions, some of which are only marginally relevant to their beat. They don’t have time to read a novel, so you’d better get to the point quickly.
Don’t beat around the bush. Use the subject line to quickly summarize why you’re writing. Tell them what the story is, your source’s credentials, and what they can offer. A general rule of thumb to follow is three paragraphs maximum – and by paragraphs, I mean 2-4 sentences per paragraph.
Keep it Interesting
This is a no-brainer that can also be difficult to get right. I generally try not to get too cute when pitching journalists, but I don’t want to be overly vanilla either. Strive for punchy, concise copy that tells the reporter exactly how you envision the story, and your source’s compelling role within that story.
Keep it Custom
Whenever possible, tailor the pitch for the journalist that’s receiving it. Mention the publication. Talk about an upcoming issue for which this story would be a perfect fit. Make sure they know that you wrote this pitch with them specifically in mind.
And whatever you do, don’t use the salutations “Dear Sir or Madam”, “Hello”, or another generic greeting that basically screams “You’re on a mass media list and every one of them got this exact pitch.”
Part 4 of The Art of the Pitch will be posted next week, in which we’ll discuss “Sending the Pitch”.