PR Pitches: It’s *Not* About the Packaging


Despite the earth-shattering changes in today’s media, online chats and forums almost always revolve around one magic question:

How should PR types pitch journalists?

There is a lot of worrying going on out there — when, in fact, pitching the media should be fairly easy and straightforward.

1. Be informed.

You can’t be helpful to a newspaper or television station if you don’t read or watch them. Understand the content, niche, audience, and most importantly, deadlines.

For example, I work for a weekly local Business Journal. We cover the business news in San Antonio where the Wall Street Journal leaves off. A story on a Nevada-based company with no meaningful impact or relationship to San Antonio is *not* news for us. Neither are rabid raccoons, unless, course, the local company that manufactured the cages is seeing a spike in business.

2. Simple is better.

We’ve had baskets overflowing with peanuts, popcorn, donuts, candy and beer delivered to the newsroom. We’ve had cartoon characters, flying pigs, and accordion-toting, singing telegram-ists parading through our foyer.

I’m all for the fun and games, but the PR ROI on gimmicks like that are just about slim to nothin’.

Send us an email or a Tweet. Pick up the phone. Give us the basic information and good contacts. Let us do the rest.

3. Take “NO” for an answer.

Look, I have four kids at home with whom I referee every day, every week.

I don’t want to do that kind of negotiating at work. I expect a higher level of engagement.

You can pitch me all day long on email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, telephone, at Starbucks and in the grocery store. I draw the line at the restroom.

I am *happy* to spend a reasonable amount of time getting to learn about a new company or a hot idea or trend. That’s my job: to listen and learn about the local business community. Build relationships with all the cool peeps who live and work here. 

But, please, when I say: “I’m sorry that just doesn’t fit our editorial needs right now.” or “Just send me the information.” You say: “Thank you for your time.”

No haggling. No pleading. No arguing. No harassing. No bullying me or putting me on the spot for a lunch date.

*This* is the root of all journalist/PR hostility. It is easily fixed. Let’s everyone use their manners.

4. News Flash: Some reporters have bad attitudes.

Like any profession, there are some bad and egotistical apples out there — sitting on their media thrones.

Any journalist who goes out of his or her way to make it difficult for you to deliver or submit information is on a power trip.

Do you really want to waste your time if pitching is a big mine field that could blow up with one misplaced press release or random Twitter?

5. The real secret: Know more than one person in the newsroom.

When I get a pitch, I analyze where it best fits in the newspaper:

* Hard, breaking news -print
* News or Feature Web
* Feature/trend
* Special pages: Profile, Five Minutes, Photo Spread
* Special magazines and publications: Health Care Heroes, etc.
* People on the Move
* Calendar
* Biz Notes

You open up more avenues for disseminating your information if you take the time to get to know more of the people and their roles at different publications.

Got a San Antonio business lead or some interesting information? Email me at: or call me directly at 210-477-3235.

If I’m not available, I’ll get back with you… right after I finish off those macadamia-nut crusted, Alamo-shaped chicken wings sent to celebrate Texas Poultry Day.



Photo courtesy Flickr via Creative Commons

~ by Donna J. Tuttle on April 29, 2009.

7 Responses to “PR Pitches: It’s *Not* About the Packaging”

  1. An interesting story, a local angle and some contact information is usually all I need in a PR pitch.
    Great article, Donna!

  2. Thank for the pointers Donna! Be it a pitch letter, press release, advisory or 140 character tweet… these are all good things PR people ought to keep in mind.

    I think it’s tough for both teams but the “play nice” phrase is not a new thing. It has been around for ages and still relevant despite how much our individual industries are evolving and reinventing themselves thanks to social media and the Web.

    • You’re right, Andi. And what I didn’t include is that I have excellent relationships with about 20 PR professionals in town (including you!) who make my job easier all the time. Good relationships don’t yield client stories every time; but they create a sense of camaraderie and trust that makes it easier for me to *want* to help when I can.

  3. Great piece, Donna!
    Beautiful blend of straightforward information and good humor.
    As a former business editor, if I can underscore one point: Do your homework! The people who got the best results from us had always gone the extra mile to find out who we were and what we had or had not already covered.
    Oh, and they know *not* to call on deadline, because they took the time to find out when our busy times were.

    • Charlotte Anne,

      The deadline point is spot on. It takes very little effort to make a quick phone call or inquiring e-mail or Tweet to get the basic information.
      So glad you could stop by yesterday, if only for a short while.
      You make us all think out here, and I appreciate you for that.


  4. I stumbled upon this mid-research at my PR internship. VERY helpful tips for a newbie. I’ll keep them in mind 🙂

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