18 Tips to Land a National Story

PRSA Media Panel


Insights on how to pitch national media stories were shared by a panel of reporters and producers that I had the honor to moderate at last night’s PRSA meeting in Chicago.

Panelists were Bryan Gruley, reporter-at-large, Bloomberg BusinessWeek; Jacqueline Howard, associate editor, The Huffington Post and host/producer, “Talk Nerdy to Me,” and Mike Fomil, content creator and cultural aggregator who is a former producer for NBC News.

The informative and entertaining discussion provided several tips for PR professionals pitching story ideas to national reporters. All three media pros agreed that it is critically important to research the journalist prior to making any contact. Although he writes his own books, Bryan Gruley doesn’t do book reviews–but he still gets numerous pitches about new books. They also urged PR pros to be sure to determine who covers what beats and then assess their style of writing in order to make more targeted pitches. Jacqueline warned against cut-and-paste emails, noting receipt of a pitch that had clearly been sent to a competing news outlet.  Mike noted that reporters and producers enjoy hearing feedback and are “very susceptible to social media flattery.”

Mike shared the following 18 tips that he and his colleagues feel will increase your chances of making a successful pitch:

  1. Know the internal newsroom clock.
  2. Be a solution.
  3. Television requires pictures.
  4. Never say “thank you” (It implies the journalist did something for you. Better to say you liked the story and point out what you liked).
  5. We are very susceptible to social media flattery. You often have more followers.
  6. “Embargo” can be a dirty word – you’re telling me somebody else is more important.
  7. It’s a pitch, not a screenplay. Keep it brief.
  8. CALL me back, email me back, let me know you got my note and you’re working on it.  I don’t care how many meetings you’re in.
  9. Ask me what my deadline is.
  10. I don’t care if your client is happy or sad.
  11. Watch/read my story.
  12. Are kids, money or pets involved?  Everybody else step to the left.
  13. Don’t pitch stories which have already happened and offer to send us the video YOU shot.
  14. Never use the word “stage” (even if that’s what we’re going to do).
  15. Don’t call me, email is fine.
  16. I don’t want to find out about it on PR Newswire or from USA Today.
  17. I want it in my inbox 2 days BEFORE everyone gets it.
  18. No late night email!

One thought on “18 Tips to Land a National Story

  1. I should elaborate on all of these so here’s something for #7. There is no cutoff length for a pitch, though may I will tell you the only way my old boss would read something of mine is if I took what I wrote and cut it down by half.

    The other problem with a pitch is if you paint the reporter or producer into a corner. Maybe you think I should talk to the Acme explosives company because they have changed the color of their packaging and now include near field communications for a near-instantaneous user experience, coupled with real-time data and cloud interface…. maybe I just want to talk about how it’s road runner season.

    I would re-write pitches because I generally read everything I could on a topic, and would know more about the subject or news peg than the person emailing me. That ain’t braggin, I can back it up.

    This is just one reason why you have to read-in every day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *