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50 Tips for Pitching A Story to the Media

50... no more... no less.jpg

This is a guest post by Alison Kenney.

  1. Ask any reporter for tips on pitching them and 9 times out of 10 they’ll say, “read my writing.” Here’s how that can help:
  2. If they repeatedly cover the same topic you can offer a resource in that area.
  3. Look at your pitch target’s headlines to get a sense of their preferred tone, format and style of writing.
  4. Understand what they’ve already covered and don’t re-pitch old stories.
  5. Reporters don’t like to be pitched stories that have already been written…if you bring up a past story, do it to offer a completely different angle or side.
  6. Check the AP Planner (@AP_Planner on Twitter) calendar for ideas that are timely – anniversaries of major events, etc.
  7. Link to, or reference, a story that has lots of stats.
  8. Think seasonal – what are the major trends and how can you tie your pitch to them?
  9. How does your story relate to major world events – e.g. the Olympics, presidential elections.
  10. Talk to your sales team – how do they pitch the product?
  11. Visualize your pitch as it would appear – with a headline, hook, quotes from different sources, etc.
  12. Think like a freelance writer and pitch story ideas to your editor that you can then plan to write yourself.
  13. Turn your story idea into a “top 10 tips” piece.
  14. Read different, “competing” media outlets – how are they covering a topic differently?
  15. Pitch a “resource” rather than a story – offer your client as an expert/authority and spell out the areas of expertise.
  16. Better yet, offer multiple resources for a story.
  17. Better still, offer a customer or someone “in the field” for perspective.
  18. Take a look at the competition – what articles have they been in? Don’t copy, but use them for inspiration.
  19. When you look at how the media covers your industry, what story aren’t they covering?
  20. Pitch your spokespeople as profile subjects.
  21. What do your clients, customers and prospects care about? Frame your story around that.
  22. Google your story idea.
  23. Read good writing.
  24. Can your story be pitched as a video interview?
  25. Can your spokespeople speculate about the outcome of an upcoming event?
  26. Do you have a sample product the media can preview?
  27. Anticipate requests for artwork like high resolution photos.
  28. If you’re pitching a trend, how do you prove it’s a trend? i.e. do you have multiple witnesses/spokespeople/examples?
  29. Consider the other side(s) to your pitch (since the editor will), what’s missing, what else will they ask about?
  30. Include helpful hyperlinks in your pitch to sites like the company’s homepage, the spokesperson’s bio, books they’ve written, authoritative industry sites, etc.
  31. Suggest meeting for coffee.
  32. Get to know your spokespeople – what are their hobbies, life histories, interests, unique accomplishments?
  33. Do you have video examples of your spokespeople in action to share with a new broadcast pitch target?
  34. Do you have a story about something that didn’t work or a problem that you faced that you can share?
  35. Brainstorm.
  36. For inspiration, consume media that is completely different from your targets (e.g. morning talk shows if you regularly pitch high tech trade media)
  37. Ask the writer how they prefer to receive pitches and what they’re currently working on
  38. Read letters to the editor and comments on blog posts for new approaches and to consider the “other side of the story”
  39. Before you pitch, read the writer’s blog, Twitter stream, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page (if it’s public)
  40. Note the outlet’s production cycle and deadlines so you understand the best times to make contact.
  41. Localize a national story.
  42. Nationalize a local story.
  43. Summarize your story idea and say it out loud; if a stranger was listening would they find it interesting?
  44. Explain to your kids what you do and what story you’re trying to tell and then ask them to explain it back to you.
  45. Remember “if it bleeds, it leads” – how does your story angle play into readers’ deepest concerns?
  46. A pitch is different from other marketing communications – it’s your opportunity to tailor it and deviate from the approved company messaging statements.
  47. Think about what would make your spokesperson a desirable resource to THIS writer you’re pitching; is it because of what the spokesperson does? Is it because of their past achievements? Or their current goal/job? Their past or current affiliations? Does their gender or other socio-cultural status make them appealing?
  48. If you’re struggling with the right angle, try writing your pitch in more than one way. Focus on a different angle for each new pitch.
  49. Read HARO or other pitch query services to get a sense of what topics are trending.
  50. Think like a reporter and ask yourself where they get their story ideas – scanning news wires, industry blogs, anticipating upcoming IPOs, new product launches, etc.?

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on You can find her at Learn more about Alison Kenney.

Photo credit: Bernat Casero

Interesting links for December 1-7

Things I found interesting this week. Enjoy!

Job search
10 dumb things to avoid in a job interview - Spin Strategyâ„¢ - Tools for Intelligent Job Search
How to Be a Social Networking Success - Business Pundit
10 tips for negotiating a big fat severance deal

Beverly Hills Ninja dvdrip

- Silicon Valley Insider
How to Handle a Lowball Job Offer -
How to Get a Job: 11 new tips - Lindsey Pollack

Business and Social Media
40 Ways to Deliver Killer Blog Content -
Foolish Productivity: The Hobgoblin of Creative Minds - Lateral Action
Lou Needs a Clue - Lateral Action

For a quick laugh
12 Great Tales of Defriending

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within release

Unknown video

- Mashable
This week's weird jobs wanted - Business Pundit
Top 10 List of People to Unfollow on Twitter - Shannon Whitley


Guest column on PRNewser: 5 tips to help ease those recession nerves

For those of you who haven't seen my new guest column on Media Bistro's PRNewser, the first post is up! From the Recruiter's Desk will post twice a month and I'll be covering industry job search news, job hunting advice, market conditions or any topics you would like to see covered. I'd love to hear what you want to read about, so please let me know!

The first post went up on Tuesday. I give 5 tips to help ease those recession nerves by investing in yourself and building your network before you need it for job search. Please check it out here and leave comments!

Thanks for all of your support!


From the Recruiter's Desk | 5 tips to help ease those recession nerves


Interesting Links: Week of October 20, 2008


Interesting links for the week. Enjoy!

Marketing and PR

Seth Godin: Be careful who you work for

The Future Buzz: 65 bite-sized web marketing tips

CopyBlogger: How to write with a distinctive voice

Lateral Action: The dark side of creativity - Burnout


CareerRealism: Can you handle the truth - 10 tips about career (that no one ever tells you)

Brazen Careerist: 3 things Gen Y can expect from the recession

PayScale: Joe the Plumber and the middle-class squeeze

The Work Buzz (CareerBuilder): Outrageous excuses for missing work

Personal interests

Ted Talks: James Nachtwey: TED Prize wish: Share a vital story with the world

Spreed:News: Speed read your news. Sign up for free and read news and blogs at 300-1,500 works per minute. [Via Wired]

600 words by Esther J. Cepeda: Se habla Oprah: Spanish-language translation actually ignores Hispanics


7 tips for negotiating your salary in turbulent times

Whether you're negotiating a pay raise or a salary for a new job, money is never an easy topic. Even more difficult is approaching your boss for a raise or starting salary discussions in a rough economy when companies are slashing budgets and pinching pennies.

HotJobs recently published an article: 7 tips for Negotiating Your Salary in a Troubled Economy. Here are the 7 tips:

  1. Create a "mission or purpose" before entering the conversation
  2. Track your success
  3. Know your value market
  4. Consider where you stand with your manager
  5. Show respect
  6. Leave the script at home
  7. Think long-term

To see the full article, click here

The Animatrix


If you're asking for a raise, pay attention to #2. Be prepared to demonstrate your goal performance and on-the-job accomplishments. It's your best bargaining tool.

From an employer's perspective, a manager wants to know if a staff member is asking for more money, he can back it up with evidence of accomplished goals and continuous improvement. Don't expect your manager to be tracking it for you. "I deserve more because my expenses are rising" or because "I've been here for a year" is completely irrelevant, yet so many people take this approach.

Simply put: The outcome is much more likely to be favorable if you make a case for yourself.

For new job salary discussions, it's most important to know your market value, especially if you've been working with the same company for a long time. Check out sites like,, or to get a general idea (but remember these aren't always completely accurate) or ask a recruiter. PR Week publishes an annual salary report (subscription only) that may be helpful.

What's your advice?

Know What Salary to Ask For in Your New Job [How To]
Figure out how much you should be paid ( and three cheers for transparent salaries)

Photo credit: TW Collins

Cell phone happy interviews


I despise cell phones. I've seemed to curb that addiction a few years ago and it was the best thing I've ever done for myself. If it's not the owner speaking unbearably loud, it's ringing at the most inopportune times. If it's not ringing with a horrific ring tone, the owner is responding to a text message in the middle of a dinner, a movie or while driving in his car. It's amazing we live in an era when cell phones are so commonplace, yet we haven't seemed to figure out cell phone etiquette.

Like this candidate who went on the job interview....true story.

Candidate goes for an interview with a PR agency. She showed up drenched, completing dismissing the idea of cleaning up quickly in the restroom before walking through her potential employer's door.

Now that's a little strange. First impression is everything, right? Maybe it was because when she showed up, she was still talking on her cellphone! Actually, yelling. Yelling at her spouse about picking up some paperwork and the kids.

If that wasn't an awkward enough start, it gets worse. She left her phone on and then answered it during her interview

Nature Unleashed: Earthquake movie

, continuing to make her arrangements and argue in front of the hiring manager. I can only imagine it was some annoying ring tone.

Of course, she didn't get the job. Deal breaker.

Lessons Learned

    50 First Dates movies

  • Avoid the situation from happening completely. Leave the cell phone in the car. Or in a briefcase or purse - turned off.
  • If the cell phone rings, don't answer it. It's the quickest way to get escorted out the door. Apologize, turn it off, and move on quickly.
  • Check the weather before leaving for the office. Better yet, keep a small umbrella in the car or office - just in case.

And one extra tidbit: Put a professional message on the cell phone voicemail. Nothing is more annoying than listening to the new Radiohead song before leaving a message.

Photo by: Cayusa

Learning From Other's Mistakes

Photo by: Ktpupp

I'm a recruiter. I talk to a lot of people everyday about their jobs, about what they looking for, how to get their next job and present their best during the interview process. I guide each candidate every step of the way, beginning with the interview process, leading to the offer stage, and (hopefully) ending with the acceptance. As you might imagine, with over 10 years in the business, I have some good stories. I work with very intelligent, professional candidates, but it is inevitable mistakes will happen. People make big mistakes. Mistakes that, well, make you glad they didn't happen to you.

Much of my week is spent prepping candidates and giving them the information they need to do their best during their interviews. I even prep the people I don't feel need a prep or people who I wonder might feel like I am insulting their intelligence. You would think PR folks should be pros at selling themselves given their profession. The truth is they are just like everyone else, and frankly, most people have a hard time finding a way to "tell their story" without underselling and or overselling themselves.

Here are 5 tips - each a product of real life true stories.

1. Make sure you know the company's name when you write your follow-up thank you letter after the interview. The same goes for the interviewer's name. "Weber Edelman" isn't a company. Lesson: Attention to detail. Future employers need to see that a future hire pays attention to detail and truly wants to work for their company, not just any company.

2. Show up to the interview on time. Not the day before or after. It won't matter that you showed up at the same time on a different day. What matters is that you got it so wrong!

Lesson: The interview is the first impression. Showing up late/too early is a predictor of possible future issues. It also shows very little respect for the other person's time. (This goes for interviewers showing up late with candidates as well, but more on that in future post).

3. Don't suck up.

buy Big Buck Bunny

People generally hate that. Especially the hiring manager or the CEO of the company. Telling the hiring manager you will get along because you have the same fashion sense doesn't score points. Lesson: Don't be overly familiar with the interviewers. An interview is nothing more than just that. You don't have the job until you sign on the dotted line AND start your first day of work.

4. Dress the part. You can be goth at night or wear your "fun" clothes to the club. And hygiene - women, if you wash your hair every few days normally, that's fine, but wash it before the interview. Clean your fingernails too (use clear or no polish). Go easy on the makeup and the jewelry. Lesson It's Pat ipod : A decision to move forward or not with a candidate is usually made during the first few minutes of an interview. Don't give the interviewer a reason to be distracted by appearance. You are being judged on how well you would represent within the company and the image of the company to the outside.

5. Be available during business hours for an interview. Yes, 9:00 pm is too late for the interview and let's not even think about asking for the weekend. Interviewing while having a job is difficult, but it is a necessary evil. Asking an interviewer to be available outside of normal business hours will translate as being disrespectful of the process and the interviewer's personal life (let me just add the "interviewer" includes your recruiter). Lesson: Be prepared to figure out a way to make the interview happen. Standard times are between 8-5:30pm.


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