Sending an E-Mail Pitch

 December 6, 2007

You’ve researched your local media outlets, and you have a few reporters from your media list who you’d like to approach with a story. One of the best ways to share your idea is through a “pitch” letter. Each reporter, editor and producer has his or her own contact preference, but most now prefer an initial introduction by e-mail, so for the sake of this week’s set of tips, we’ll talk about pitching by e-mail.

A pitch e-mail briefly tells three main points to the reporter – your story idea, why the idea is important, and why the reporter’s audience will be interested. The most difficult part of getting your message across, however, can be getting your e-mail read. Here are some tips to help get your pitch e-mail read and possibly turned into a story.

·         Contact the reporter who is the best fit for your story (most likely someone from your media list).
·         Personalize your message. Start out by using the reporter’s name; perhaps mention a recent story you read or saw.
·         The first paragraph needs to be attention-getting and compelling—remember you’re selling a story idea that is not necessarily hard news (which is when you’d want to use a news release). Some ways to capture attention are to be straight-forward (“I’ve been following your weekly health column. I have a great column idea about the connection between stress and physical health.”) or hooking onto a local angle. (“There have been a lot of foreclosures in our city recently. A good story idea is about how people can deal with their stress about the cost of housing. … ”)
·         Keep the tone of your message conversational. Avoid writing in all capital letters or large, bold fonts—your e-mail will just be flagged as spam or junk.
·         Keep your message to a few paragraphs, all in the body of the e-mail. Remember to tell the reporter why the story is important and why their audience would be interested.
·         If you have a PDF document or photo is available, let the reporter know that, but do not attach it in an unsolicited message.
·         Write a subject line that is also straight-forward and precise but less than 10 words. (For example, “Story Idea: Survey shows Americans feeling more stress” or (“[Your Town] psychologist available to speak about stress”)
·         Following up with a pitch e-mail is often essential. Avoid calling the reporter just to find out if they received your email and are interested in writing about your story. Instead, call the reporter, offering additional information (For example, “We have been having a large problem with home foreclosures around this city. You may also be interested to know that the APA survey shows that many Americans are feeling extreme stress about housing.”)

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