Skip to content
Illustration showing a red mailbox open and fully of white envelopes, two envelopes flying away, on a pastel purple background. Pitching a press release blog post.

How to Pitch Your Press Release to Journalists


Sep 15, 2023

As public relations professionals, we’ve mastered the art of writing a press release. Catchy headline? No problem. Securing that perfect quote from the CEO? Easy. When it comes to crafting that ideal, newsworthy press release, we’ve got it down. So there’s nothing worse than sending it out to your list of media contacts and having it fall flat.

The hard truth is, that a press release is only as good as your pitch. And with reporters getting dozens (if not more) pitches in their email inbox every day, you need to make sure yours stands out.

In this blog post, we’ve compiled some best practices on how to pitch your press release to journalists. The following steps will make sure your pitch is more than just a mass email blast and help your team secure the visibility you’re seeking.

Follow these steps to pitch your press release to journalists:

1. Prepare Your Press Release for Distribution

There are a few simple ways to optimize your press release to make it even more appealing to a journalist. As always, be sure it has a compelling title and is descriptive enough that it gets your point across while sparking curiosity. You want whoever's scanning the titles to stop and want more.

Including a quote is a simple way to show off your brand’s human side, and a visual will catch their eye as something they could include with their story. These examples of press releases are great inspirations.

2. Build Your Target Media List

When it comes to building a list of media outlets and reporters you want to target, there is a delicate balance you should be shooting for. While volume is important, it’s more essential to research and make sure you’re pitching outlets and journalists that typically write about the topic or industry your story entails. Spending the time to build a good-sized list of reputable, relevant outlets will be well worth your efforts.

Person on park bench reaching a newspaper. Tips for pitching a press release and getting reporters to pick up your new story

Know who you're speaking to

Research. Research. Research. Who are you speaking to and why? Thoroughly learn everything you can about their interests, their needs, and their audience. Read past stories they’ve written and follow their social accounts. This allows you to craft an effective pitch that will resonate with the person you’re speaking to. 

Only Meltwater offers a media contacts database that allows you to search for journalists by recent media coverage. This will help you tailor a media pitch to their most recent interests. Along with phone and social media contact info, you’ll also be able to send email straight from the tool and keep track of your open rates.

Important questions to ask yourself before you begin pitching your press release:

  • Are you pitching the right people?
  • Do you have prior journalist relationships you can leverage?

1. Pitch to the right people

Before you begin the pitch process, it’s useful to know the audience you’re pitching to. Traditional media and influencers, such as bloggers, might have slightly different motivations for covering certain topics.

The modern convenience of media databases means that email pitches make it easy to spam hundreds (or even thousands) of journalists and influencers at the click of a button. If you’re tempted to do this, take a deep breath and reconsider. You can now create a list of journalists who are writing about topics like yours and in the cities or regions in which they are relevant. Use a media database to find those contacts more easily.

2. Leverage prior relationships

Is the only time you have contact with media or influencers when you want them to cover your brand or company? If so, you may reconsider this strategy.

Once you know where and by whom you’d like media coverage; try to establish an ongoing relationship. Starting a dialogue as soon as possible (especially when you aren’t immediately asking for coverage) will only to work to your advantage.

This can be as simple as following them on Instagram and commenting on their photos or engaging with them on relevant topics on Twitter. Or you can invest a bit more time and try asking those who are located near you out for lunch or coffee.

laptop on wooden desk with coffee mug, phone, and writing pad

3. Write the Perfect Pitch

Once you’ve identified an interesting topic, make sure that how you’re coaching the pitch for maximum impact. Can you explain simply and quickly? Or in other words, will your audience “get it” right away. Find someone outside your company and give them a 60-second elevator pitch.

Did you make all your most important points? Did they find them interesting? If the answer is no, focus in on what’s important, condense if necessary, and try approaching the topic from different angles. Is there a human interest angle? New hire? How does this impact the community-at-large? Ask yourself why someone should care. Ask an outsider again if they think how you’re saying, what you’re saying, is interesting. If the answer is still no, rinse and repeat, until the answer is yes.

Your pitch should be informative but concise. The sweet spot is between 4-6 sentences. Use this space to include your who, what, where, when, and any other critical or newsworthy details.

If a pitch gets much longer than 6 sentences, a reporter is more likely to skim it and miss important points.

It's recommended to ensure your pitch is both timely and relates to something the journalist has written about previously or recently.

Close up of microphone. Pitch the perfect press release to the right audience

4. Write a Compelling Subject Line

You could write a stellar pitch, but if the email never gets opened, then it won’t do you any good. To increase the chances that your email is opened, writing a compelling subject line is absolutely key.

The subject line for your PR pitch should be short (around 5-7 words), compelling, and lead with the most important part of your story.

Be cautious about beginning your subject line with “press release,” “pitch,” or “story idea.” Everyone does this! Did we mention reporters receive hundreds of pitches per day? Yours should stand out; not blend in with the masses.

Additionally, you may have heard to start your subject line with “Fwd:” or “re:” as to imply you’ve already been in a conversation with this reporter (when you haven’t). Don’t do this. Reporters will see right through this and ignore it. And if they do fall for it? Well, as soon as they open the email and realize they haven’t actually been in communication with you, your email will go in the trash bin — and so will any potential professional relationship with them.

Tip! Don't ignore the pre-header text

In most cases, people focus on the subject line of an email, yet the pre-header text — the text that shows up to the right of the subject line in the recipient’s email — matters a lot too.

The goal of the pre-header text is to act as a teaser of what your pitch has to say. You want to grab the recipient’s attention in the pre-header as well as the subject line. In fact, after optimizing their pre-header text, on of our clients saw a 30% increase in their pitch open rates!

woman holding tablet, writing a press release email

5. Personalize Your Email

Now that you’ve written your basic pitch and email subject line, you should personalize the content of the email to further stand out to the journalist you’re sending it to. And yes, this means no CCs or even BCCs.

When at all possible, you should be sending a unique and personalized email to each and every reporter on your list. Learn more about the power of personalized PR.

That means addressing them by name. Beginning your email pitch with “To whom it may concern” is the online equivalent of saying “Hey, you!” when you don’t remember that new colleagues name — not terribly friendly and likely to leave a bad taste in their mouth.

When you have an understanding of the reporter’s media outlet, focus, and style of writing, you’ll be able to explain why your press release may be of use to them and offer valuable story ideas.

As a general rule of thumb, never attach your press release or media kit/press kit to the email. Instead, include a link within the email text where they can view and download the materials. This is a much easier and more straight-forward than asking them to deal with an attachment. It's a simple measure you can take that will better your chances of success.

Finally, be sure to include all relevant contact information. Offer your phone number as well as email address so that you’re easily accessible to answer any questions they may have.

6. Hit Send at the Right Time

The final step is all about timing. Your send time and date might be one the most strategic pieces to the puzzle when it comes to pitching your press release. Something is only “newsworthy” for an extremely limited time. And since most reporters need between a day and a week to turn around a story, you’ll need to send your pitch well before you expect the article to run. Email marketing software can help get manage email campaigns and gain more visibility to any type of content you’re pitching.

Not every pitch you send will result in a story, but if you follow these steps, you’ll certainly better your chances of snagging some coverage.

Nail the follow-up

Another key thing to get right when pitching journalists is the ever-important follow-up.

Stay persistent and persuasive and explain the benefits of picking up your story. Give them concrete reasons why your story is better than anyone else’s. There is also a fine line between being persistent and being annoying.

Give the journalist a few days to process your pitch. If they sound busy, don’t take up too much of their time, and if the journalist says no, ask them why. Rejection is par for the course in PR - turn it into a learning experience by using the opportunity to ask what future topics they would be interested in.

Pitching your press release to journalists can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! Follow these steps for a simple way to increase visibility and build valuable relationships with your media contacts.

Tracking Pitch Success

When sending press release pitches, it’s important to track performance so you can analyze how successful your emails are, and glean any learnings.

See also: 14 PR KPIs and how to track them

Look beyond open rates

While open rate matters, it doesn’t take into consideration what the recipient does after they view the email. If a journalist opens an email and deletes it, they are probably not a candidate for an even more personalized follow-up.

Along with looking at who opened your email, you’ll want to look at how long they spent reading it, and whether they clicked on any links.

These actions show engagement and will help you determine who you should continue to pursue. Making the extra effort to follow-up, based on everything you know about their interests and audience, signals that there is a strong story for them to write.

Think of your initial email as a way to test the waters and the follow-up as a way to zero-in on your most promising prospects. When a journalist engages, signaling that they’re ready for additional details, provide the clincher that will lead to the kind of coverage you need.

Close up of data graphs and person holding ball point pen, reporting PR pitch metrics and kpis

Advice From Industry Pros

As our industry continues to evolve, it’s clear that focusing on the relations part of PR is essential in pitching reporters. Here's what some top PR and media professionals had to say about the best way to achieve success. This advice, coupled with the help of a media intelligence platform and access to an influencer database, is a sure-fire way for brands to get results.

Have a "why"

“It takes more to build a pitch of interest than it did say five years ago,” says Susan Thomas, founder, and CEO of Bay Area agency 10Fold.

“Gone are the days when writing a clever pitch and working with the right reporter would be enough. Now, you have to have a ‘why’ — and it has to be impressive. It takes more forethought, more planning, more research. It’s no longer about product coverage, especially for unproven companies.”

Lauren Stewart, media relations advisor for Canadian airline WestJet, agrees. “Spending more time preparing and researching will bring you more success when pitching your story. And when I say pitching your story, I mean it. Not a product. It takes some skill to create a story that will make the journalist interested in talking about you. No reporter wants to be a shill for your product.”

The "people side"

So what should you pitch? “Often, it’s the people side of things that get coverage,” says Stewart. An example involved her company WestJet giving away what they dubbed “Christmas miracles,” and allowing the media behind-the-scenes access to those who received the “miracles,” which included vouchers for air travel. “We got fantastic in-depth coverage with a third-party telling our story for us.”

Think beyond the pitch

What else works when you want to make a pitch about more than the product? Thomas, who works primarily with technology clients, says that even for funding announcements, the standards have changed.

“Because the media is tougher on validation and proof points, we have to think beyond the pitch and go further to get the coverage.”

For example, Thomas suggests conducting a survey so that you can include the results in your pitch to help validate the need for the product. However Thomas cautions that for this strategy to be effective you have to start long before the announcement date.

Taking advantage of a trend can also lead to success. Meagan Ewton, a public relations coordinator for Rogers State University, explains how her team was able to ride the wave of Pokemon Go’s popularity to promote a community event by pitching a story instead of issuing a press release.

“Our most successful pitch this year was for a Pokémon Go event held three weeks after the app’s launch. There was synergy there for reporters already covering the story, so we took advantage of that. We were able to share about our game development, software development, and graphic design programs, and this made it into the story, which drove up attendance at our event.”

Be results focused

Another piece of advice to create a winning media pitch comes from Karen Swim, PR consultant and founder of Words for Hire. “The most successful campaigns begin with a clear-eyed focus on the result” says Swim. “The objectives aren’t merely to ‘get press’ or ‘increase visibility’ but have specific end-goals that are measurable. It’s critical to have tools that allow you to analyze and measure your efforts and then use that feedback to inform your next steps.”

“Data-based decision making has become part of our everyday lives,” adds Thomas. “You need to have data that backs your performance.”


You’re ultimately selling a story. If you are diligent about how you approach pitching a press release you will increase the chances of getting your emails opened, read, and acted upon. Be persistent, persuasive, and stay confident.

Meltwater is here to help! Request a demo by filling out the form below to explore our PR solutions and strengthen your strategy.