Taken from the bowels of my Formspring page, where you really can ask me anything. [tweetmeme source=”jolieodell” only_single=false]
Question: Are there specific things that make a pitch easier & more efficient for a journalist to read/scan? Do you prefer a specific organization (e.g. bullet points) or type of content (screenshots? intro on why you specifically would care? type of contact info?)
Answer: YES! This is so important.
Journalists grew up with the Inverted Pyramid format (if the phrase is unfamiliar, click the link and read away). It’s a very straightforward, just-the-facts information layout that presents the most important data in descending order down the page. We’ve been reading and writing in that format for EONS. Literally decades in some cases. And we have learned to scan like machines for “just the facts,” especially when it comes to pitches and press releases.
The point of a pitch email is, then, to give a journo the facts and then get out of the way.
So putting in clever paragraphs about how an app relates to us is pointless. If it’s relevant, we’ll see that immediately.
If you can put your pitch into an inverted pyramid, top it off with a great lede, include a few salient bullet points, and throw in a screenshot or two, it’s a winner.
As far as contact info, having your email address is sufficient if you check it every 5 minutes religiously. If you don’t, I recommend including your phone number — journos have tight deadlines in the digital age, and we often need very quick responses.
Your pitch email should not include:
- Quotes from your CEO (that you wrote yourself, you sly devil)
- Your entire press release, which should instead be a link or attachment (not a PDF, ever)
- An embargo more than a couple days away (unless it’s super-big news with a phone or in-person briefing involved)
- The phrases “I think you’ll be interested in,” “I see you wrote about our competitor,” or any common jargon/buzzwords
- A subject line with a whole bunch of irrelevant crap about your company, any partnerships, etc.
Stick with the Inverted Pyramid, and you’ll do just fine.
Hope this helps! If you need or want more info, have a gander at my Word to My P.R. Homies series. I have a big heart for those who must pitch for a living. =)
photo credit: Steve Hall