pr pitch
Vintage shout

By Rieva Lesonsky

Do you feel frustrated by the media’s lack of response when you send out a PR pitch? Tweaking your approach a bit—and understanding what journalists are looking for when they scan through press releases—can help.

Fractl recently did a survey of 1,300 digital publishers, writers and editors from a wide range of websites, including those in the business, news, health, travel, lifestyle, education and technology industries, to see what gets their attention when it comes to a PR pitch. Here’s what you need to know.

What happens to your pitch

Members of the media get a lot of PR pitches. For instance, at “top-tier” publishers, 43 percent get five to 50 pitches a week, and 57 percent get 50 to 500 per week. But the majority of writers and editors (70 percent) write one story, at most, per day. Clearly, there is a lot of competition to get their attention and get mentioned in those few stories.

That doesn’t mean that your pitch is going into the “delete” file immediately. Nearly three in 10 (27 percent) of respondents at top-tier sites say PR pitches are valuable or very valuable, while an additional 52 percent say they are slightly valuable. Smaller websites are more likely to find pitches useful: 47 percent of these respondents find PR pitches somewhat valuable and 38 percent say they’re valuable or very valuable.

More good news: Almost half of respondents say they often or always read PR pitches. Just 2 percent always ignore them. The most likely to always read pitches: lifestyle and food writers/editors. Least likely to read them: automotive and finance writers and editors.

Since it’s harder to get attention at “top-tier” publications and websites, it may be best to start with your local community paper rather than pitching, say, USA Today on your story. However, even journalists at the big-name outlets do use PR pitches, so if you think your story has national value, don’t give up.

What makes a PR pitch work (or not)?

Photos, mixed media and videos are the most popular types of content with publishers (remember, the survey polled digital publishers). Although these will continue to be popular going forward, respondents say infographics and other types of data visualizations will be in even higher demand. Can you present information, such as a survey of your customers or some trend research you’ve done, in a visually appealing way? If so, your PR pitch has an edge. Or consider making a quick video promoting an upcoming event at your business and sending that to publishers.

More do’s and don’ts:

  1. Do your homework. Research the person and publication you’re contacting before you pitch. Eighty percent of publishers say a common reason they decline pitches is that they’re irrelevant to their “beat” (that is, the field they cover).
  2. Don’t be too self-promotional. Focus on providing value to the publication’s readers, such as interesting statistics, news or how-to information. If your PR pitch comes off more like an ad, 56 percent of publishers will decline it.
  3. Don’t be dull. Almost half (48 percent) of recipients will reject a PR pitch for being boring. (Speaking from experience, they probably won’t even read beyond the first paragraph.)
  4. Do time it right. The best time of day to send pitches is early morning to noon; the best time of the week is Monday through Wednesday.
  5. Do respond quickly. If a journalist contacts you about your PR pitch, answer right away. Nearly half of writers and editors in the survey have a turnaround time of just one to two days. If you don’t answer them, they’ll move on to the next pitch.
  6. Do spend time on subject lines. Two-thirds of respondents say an email’s subject line is the most important factor in whether they open it or not. Make sure your subject line identifies the email as a pitch and focuses on the benefit.
  7. Do keep it short. More than half of writers and editors in all industries and beats prefer pitches to be between 100 and 200 words. When you’re wading through 500 pitches a week, shorter is better.