Artificial pitch: the art of journalist communications

Posted on 26th September 2019 by Claire

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I recently saw some interesting research from Propel PR who reckon that PR pros send, on average, 111 pitches to journalists each month. Out of those; 50% are opened, 7% get a response and 1.5% result in coverage. That’s pretty low odds. So why do we, collectively as an industry, still continue to email pitches to press if only 1 in 100 results in a positive for the client?


Let’s first look at the mechanics here. I’m assuming that by ‘pitches’ the research is referring to email pitches for news, press releases, feature topics, article ideas – basically anything crafted and developed as press material.


In reality we treat these different types of content in different ways. Yes ultimately they end up in a journalist’s inbox but a news release would be treated differently to an idea for a feature or a pitch for a byline.


So what other options are there? Well the stats don’t really reveal the whole story (although they’re great insights). Email pitches are only ever one part of the process. As controversial as it is, phone pitching is still (yes after 25 years in the business we’re still doing it) one of the most effective ways to drive coverage. The ability to discuss/engage/interact with a journalist, and bring the story to life of course outweighs the one dimensional approach often provided by an email – even with video and images there is no guarantee that these will be scrolled down to, viewed or clicked on.


Then there is social media. Journalists often put out requests for comments, content and news over a variety of platforms. Engaging with them here when you have a story that’s appropriate ensures that it’s short and straight to the point.


And don’t forget face to face. While the opportunity to meet with journalists F2F is ever diminishing, the benefit of putting a face to a name, and gaining insights into their needs, interests and likes is invaluable. People are always willing to spend more time discussing issues face to face than over email or the phone.


My feeling is that email pitching still has a vital role to play, but as part of a broader journalist communications effort. And it goes without saying that it needs to be relevant.


Some other interesting findings from the research included:

  1. Tuesday is the busiest day for pitching with 40% sent that day. Makes sense really. Monday everyone is too busy sorting out the week ahead. Journalists may have more time on Tuesday to review inbound news.
  2. Friday is the least busy/quietest? day for pitching with 8% of pitches sent that day. Again, totally makes sense. Attention is thin on the ground and if it’s a weekly and it lands on Friday afternoon, it’s not news by Monday.
  3. PROs pitch heavily during lunch. The biggest pitching hour is 1-2pm. Lunch at your desk then. This one surprised me. I’d always try and send my pitches early in the morning when journalists are looking for the day’s news to write about.


If you’re interested in some top tips on pitching, check out our previous blog ‘I’ve got 99 problems, but my pitch aint one’. It’s still one of the best headlines I’ve ever seen.


N.B: The research was based on 7,500 email pitches sent to reporters across a variety of industries.


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