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 quite like the feeling of sending it out to your list of media contacts and having it fall flat.

The truth is, 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’ll need to make sure yours stands out.

In this article, 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.

1. Prepare your press release for distribution

This seems obvious, right? I know that you know how to write a press release. That said, there are a few simple ways to optimise your press release to make it even more appealing to a journalist. As always, be sure it has a compelling title. It should be descriptive enough that it gets your point across but still sparks curiosity. 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. But you know all of this – so let’s get to the next step.

2. Build your target media list

When it comes to building the list of media outlets and reporters you want to target, there’s a balance you should aim to achieve. It’s essential to research and make sure you’re targeting media outlets and journalists that typically write about the topic you’re pitching. Simply gathering a massive list and sending an email blast to them likely won’t do you any good. That said, too small of a list and your chance of securing any coverage decreases. Spending the time to build a good-sized list of reputable, relevant outlets will be well worth your efforts.

Be sure to reach out to your media targets and journalists through social media as well.

PR Pitch - create media list

3. Write your pitch

“Your pitch should be informative but concise. A sweet spot is anything from four-to-six sentences.”

We’ll get to personalisation in the next step, but before this, you’ll want to write a basic pitch you can use as a starting point. Your pitch should be informative but concise. A sweet spot is anything from four-to-six sentences.

This offers plenty of space to explain your story without going overboard – if it gets much longer, the reporter is more likely to skim over it. Just be certain to include your who, what, where, and when, as well as location and time (if its an event you’re hoping they’ll cover) and any other critical (and newsworthy) details. This should include your most important messaging, so if you have a selling point (a special guest, an exclusive, etc.), now is the time to break it out!

Top tip: Where possible ensure your pitch is 1) timely 2) relates to something the journalist has written about previously.

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. Reporters receive hundreds of pitches every single day. To increase the chances that yours is the email they open, it’s all about writing a compelling subject line.

We’ll start with what not to do. If you begin your subject line with “press release,” “pitch,” or “story idea,” consider it as good as in the trash bin. 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 don’t? Well, as soon as they open the email and realise they haven’t been in communication with you, your email will go in the trash bin – and so will your professional relationship.

But don’t worry – there are some subject line best practices that will increase the likelihood of your email getting opened, without the dirty tactics.

Your subject line should be short (five-to-seven words is a good rule of thumb), compelling, and lead with the most important part of your story. Let’s be honest – unless you’re a household name, the journalist probably won’t care too much about the company itself. Instead, focus on the most grabbing aspect of the story and build your subject line around that.

5. Personalise your email

“When at all possible, you should be sending a unique and personalised email to each and every reporter on your list.”

Now that you’ve written your basic pitch and subject line, you can personalise the content of the email to fit the needs of the journalist to whom you’re sending it. And yes, this means no CCs or even BCCs. When at all possible, you should be sending a unique and personalised email to each and every reporter on your list.

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 to the email. Instead, include a link within the email text they can click on to view and download the materials. Any opportunity you have to make their life easier is valuable. This is a simple measure you can take that will better your chances of success. You could also just copy and paste your press release directly into the document (below your pitch). 

Finally, be sure to include relevant contact information. Consider offering not just your email address but your phone number as well so that you’re easily accessible to answer any additional questions they may have.

6. Hit send

The last step may seem simple, but there’s a bit more to it than simply clicking “send.” This final step is all about timing. 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.

When you hit send, you can sit back and relax. At least, for a few minutes. If you don’t hear anything after a day or two, consider sending a follow-up email – but just one. You never want to hound a reporter for the risk of hurting your professional relationship. If you still don’t hear anything, then cut your losses and hope for better luck next time. 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.

In conclusion

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.

Claire Brenner is a senior content marketing specialist at G2 Crowd, a B2B software and services review platform. She came to G2 Crowd after graduating from the University of Dayton with a BA in Communication. Born and raised in the Chicago area, her brief stint in Ohio gave her a new appreciation for the bustling city and its deep-dish pizza. While not writing, Claire can be found practising calligraphy, exploring the third coast, and planning her next trip.

You can find her on LinkedIn and Twitter