What journalists want and need
The goal of any pitch is to share your news in a manner journalists can read quickly and understand.
A good pitch is clear, concise and informative. It conveys three pieces of information: what is new, why it is important and a few key details—just like reporters write news copy.
- What is new about the product or company—lead with this. Without something new in the first sentence, a journalist won’t be reading the second.
- Why this is important—an interesting survey finding, a company announcement or a news event are good examples. After establishing that something is new, the next goal is to establish why it matters.
- More detail—this is the tactical information, the details and background a reporter needs to make an informed decision as to whether or not your story is newsworthy.
Easy, breezy, simple.
Avoid words that don’t actually mean anything
Clichés achieve the opposite effect: they are distracting, vague and lazy, not to mention completely inappropriate for news articles. For this reason, journalists have an aversion to clichés.
Common offenders in press materials include:
- Stealth mode
One last thing to avoid is over-writing.
Your pitch should be written conversationally. In other words, write like you speak. This is the top tenet of effective news copy. Here is an example of news copy written by a junior staffer trying hard to write like a real newsperson:
“Two people are clinging to life after shots rang out where citizens were gathering in an inner-city neighborhood. The gunfire was heard during an altercation where alcohol was thought to be involved. Authorities are investigating. The suspects are still at large.”
This tells us very little about what really happened. We can guess and make inferences, but it’s more likely we’ll just move on or perhaps abandon that article for one that actually tells a story. A journalist will do the same with an over-written pitch. They simply don’t have time to try to unearth the meaning from a bunch of unnecessary words.
This is a deadline-driven business. Your role is to share your story quickly and efficiently, using facts—not clichés—to tell a powerful story that will appeal to journalists, not repel them.