Knowledge

5 steps to writing pitches that national journalists love

4 MINUTE READ - 11 May 2021

Polly Kirkup
Polly Kirkup
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Nationals are at the top of everyone’s outreach lists, which means thousands of brands are competing for the exposure and high-quality links that these publications can provide. This saturated market makes it increasingly difficult to gain placement.

48% of journalists receive six or more pitches a day[i], and if your story doesn’t stand out, it’s likely to be deleted without an open. A great pitch is the key to great links, so it’s crucial that you take time with the preparation process and tailor your pitches to suit both the publication and the journalist.

1.     Finding the right journalists

Typically, a simple Google search will point you straight to an email address for your chosen publication. However, if you want to maximise the chance of success, you need to look beyond the general editor. Try using a journalist database to find the right person for your idea.

Allow time to read what they specialise in and ensure your story is something they would discuss. This is a great way to make lasting relationships too — if the writer recognises that your brand is an expert in the industry, they may contact you directly with relevant opportunities later.

Equally, the opposite is true: if you "spam" journalists with irrelevant or poor-quality pitches, they could end up blacklisting you.

2.     Personalisation

Now you’ve found the right person, it’s time to tailor your pitch to them. The most obvious place to start is using their name. If you don't use a first name, this could raise some red flags for the journalist — make it feel like the story and pitch were created with them in mind.

It's also a good idea to mention a previous article that they put together on a similar topic. This not only shows that you are interested in their work but allows you to show that your pitch is relevant to their existing readers and portfolio.

3.     Communicating your idea

A killer subject line is paramount. It should give enough information to let the journalist know what the story covers while being snappy and eye catching. A great way to draw attention to your subject line is using emojis. This works especially well when sending out lifestyle content.

The body of the email should be insightful but concise; a mass of words can be off-putting and result in deletion. Summing the idea up in a couple of sentences and breaking up text up with images means the content is easily digested. Structuring the pitch like a completed story will help the journalist picture what it could look like on the site.

Put emphasis on key points by placing them near the top and bolding them — if the journalist only has time to scan, this will help ensure they catch the main topics.

If you have any campaign assets, such as press releases or images, try adding them to a Dropbox folder and linking to it from your email. This eliminates the need for back and forth and allows your story to be published almost immediately — particularly useful for busy journalists trying to meet strict deadlines. It can also result in syndication, meaning your story is featured across more publications.

4.     Choosing a hook

National publications typically want your story to have a hook — for it to tie into a recent trend or news item. If you haven't already, you should consider what research might enhance your story or give reasoning for the journalist to cover it. Whatever that is, you want your voice to be authoritative enough to gain exposure over competitors'.

Digesting the media packs of your target publications is another essential piece of research, helping you to create pitches that truly fit their objectives and audience. For example, MailOnline reaches 65% of mums every month[ii], so a parenting idea could work particularly well.

5.     Follow-up and tracking

Follow-up emails can be just as important as your initial pitch. Email scheduling software, such as Buzzstream, will be helpful for this.

If the story is still relevant after three days of receiving no response, consider sending a short, polite, and to-the-point follow-up asking if they received your email and if they had any thoughts or questions. It’s crucial to do this, as your story may be right for them and it's just the case that they missed your initial email.

Longer-term, keep an eye out for news and trends that are relevant to your story: you may be able to re-pitch your original idea using this hook. 

It’s also useful to keep tabs on how many opens your pitch received. This gives you the opportunity to test different angles and see what works best. Our outreach team have vast experience building links on national publications. Get in touch to find out what a dedicated link-building service or wider SEO campaign could do for your site.


[i] https://f.hubspotusercontent40.net/hubfs/4272994/State%20of%20Journalism%202021/2021%20State%20of%20Journalism%20results.pdf

[ii] https://d212k0qo5yzg53.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/20200623163904/Mail-Metro-Media-Brand-One-Pagers-8.pdf