The next step is the big one—actually sitting down and writing the pitch. For some of the pitches this part was easy and the words flowed from my pen onto paper (or rather from my fingers onto keys). But others didn’t come as easily and I really had to coax the words out; I think this really all depended upon how compelling the story I was trying to pitch was. Those that were interesting enough that I just had to write them down were simple and fun to write but those I had to word carefully to ensure it didn’t come off as “So what?” were much more difficult.
The important thing to remember when writing a pitch is who you are writing to. Let’s say I’m planning to pitch to four reporters at four different papers about the same intern. Odds are, I’m not going to send the same pitch to all four. One may be a college newspaper so I’ll write that one focused around why a college community would want to read an article about the intern. Another may be a bigger paper so I may choose to pitch to the Education section but for another smaller paper I might forego Education and pitch straight to News/Features because that would be newsworthy for a paper of that size. Reading previous articles by the reporter will help you in writing the pitch as well because it gives you a better understanding of that reporter’s style and what they tend to focus on.
I include the following in each pitch:
• Subject line. This is extremely important because your subject line needs to give the reporter a reason to open the email.
• Greeting personalized to the reporter. This is important: you don’t want them to feel like they’re just one of the many. Never just write “Dear Editor” if you know their name. Taking the time to personalize instead of copy/pasting will go a long way.
• Presentation of the story with a catchy lead. Many email programs such as Gmail allow users to see the first 10 or so words and you want these to entice the reporter to look at the email and not just delete or disregard it.
• Why they should write an article about the intern and what the readership will gain from said article
• Offer for more information and to set up an interview with the intern along with email address and phone number to make contact easy.
As you can see, the first three steps really build to this step. I couldn’t have written the pitch without having first spent time on gathering the information, finding the story and targeting the reporter.