Carefully Crafted on May 28

How to Pitch Media: Tips from a Digital Editor

Newsrooms across the country are undergoing major shifts, not the least of which are fewer resources yet a demand to create even more content to keep up with the truncated news cycle. So, as PR people, how can we best work with editors and reporters? While I’ve got some ideas of my own, I thought it would be helpful to go straight to the source. Doug Buchanan is managing editor-digital for Columbus BusinessFirst, which means he directs the daily online/digital news coverage. In this role, he’s bombarded by press releases, pitches and PR people clamoring to get their clients covered. He was kind enough to take a few minutes and answer some questions that should help all of us improve our working relationships with reporters — at BusinessFirst or any other publication!


You’ve been managing the digital edition of Business First for 10 years, so I’m sure you’ve sorted through hundreds — if not thousands — of pitches. What makes a good one stand out? Any best practices to share?

First off, good pitches are relevant to the publication they’re being pitched to. In other words, know your audience! Be familiar with the kinds of stories they run, and equally important, which ones they never do. Second, they’re pitching something specific, not just that the client exists. Third, they’re pitches, not press releases.

What’s one thing PR pros should NOT do if they want to catch your attention?

Send an email with a generic subject line. Think of inboxes as one long list of headlines. Make it pithy and relevant or it’ll get ignored.

Any advice to help PR pros be better/smarter when pitching?

Don’t send a follow-up asking if the recipient got the pitch, or worse, leave a voice mail to that effect. You should know the correct email address – they got the pitch. If you got no response, it means they’re not interested. My decision tree when taking the time to respond: Out-of-towners, never; People I don’t know, rarely; Press releases from people I know, sometimes; Personalized questions from people I know – always.

In other words, you should have established some relationship beforehand so the original pitch could be more of a “is this something you’re interested in?” query rather than a submitted press release.

Lastly, what’s one thing PR pros should do to build long-term relationships with media (without being overwhelming!)?

Take no for an answer. If we didn’t like Pitch A about your client, it’s unlikely we’ll like the ideas you didn’t go with first. I honestly can’t imagine how hard it must be to tell a paying client that their story just isn’t that interesting, but you’ll go a long way toward being a long-term, trusted source if you serve as the gatekeeper to bad ideas. That’ll make the good ones stand out that much more.


Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons, via Brad Schloss

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