At Change, we have three buckets of services:
- Overall communications strategy and messaging
- Digital and content
- Earned media/media relations
The secret to getting a journalist interested in writing about your issue is a great pitch, which is essentially a story idea, or a short teaser of a story that they could bring to life.
As earned media specialists, we write and send a lot of pitches to place and shape stories, and position organizations and leaders in our mission to further the movement for racial justice. Sometimes, for various reasons, our pitches don’t get traction in the news media, but more often than not, we find at least one reporter, editor, producer, or booker, if not more, who wants to learn more about our clients, the work they are doing, and their stories. Below are some factors we consider as we craft winning pitches.
Elements that make a pitch sticky
A few must-haves to make your pitch compelling and actionable include:
Catchy subject line: You have about two or three seconds to get a journalist’s attention, if that, so it’s important to have a pithy and eye-catching subject. You won’t get anyone to read your amazing pitch if the journalist glances right past your subject line. Getting to the perfect subject is an art not a science, so experiment with keywords and phrases that might pique interest.
Cut to the chase: Details matter: What is compelling about your pitch idea? Why should someone care about what you have to say? Aim for about 150-200 words and create a story—a beginning, middle, and end—that would make someone interested in responding to your pitch to learn more. Include data or research to back up what you’re saying, and show, don’t tell, reporters why they should be interested.
- Example of telling: Rosa is a selfless mother.
- Example of showing: Rosa wakes up every morning at 5 a.m. to ensure her children eat a hot breakfast before school every morning.
Point to a solution and offer a source: Why are you advocating for this specific policy change? What will be the impacts of the music festival you’re organizing? What do you want your audience to do? While you don’t want to dwell on this section, it’s important to briefly tease out the solutions you’re offering to the issue you laid out. It’s equally important to name a specific spokesperson who can offer details of said event/issue.
Enhancing a pitch
Once you have these basic elements, here are a few enhancements that will uplevel the potential for attention and response:
External or internal time hook: Highlight the timeliness of your story. What would make the reporter write this story now? What would make it new? Does your idea coincide with an important external event or milestone? For example, Mother’s Day offers a good opportunity to highlight the annual Black Mama’s Day Bailout action. Black History Month in February provides a hook for the Black Girl Freedom Week. Does it relate to events happening in the current news cycle? Are you publishing a new report, introducing a new bill, or organizing a conference?
Influencers and champions: Do you have the support of someone famous or well-respected in your field? Are they willing to champion your efforts? Whether it’s acting as a spokesperson, headlining an event, or contributing a quote to the pitch, think strategically about how to maximize the impact of your influencers and champions.
Directly affected people: Centering people who have been directly affected by the problem you’re working to solve—whether it’s police violence, housing insecurity, or voting—not only helps to ground your pitch, they are also powerful spokespeople who provide credibility and life to a journalist’s story. The best idea is just an idea without having someone who lived through the issue you’re working on as a live representation to speak their truths.
To learn more about pitching, or if you need support pitching your important story, contact Change Consulting at firstname.lastname@example.org.