On October 29th, WWPR members gathered at The American Chemical Society headquarters for a media roundtable event to get advice directly from the source on how to build relationships with reporters and draft email pitches that stand out amongst overflowing inboxes.
Moderator Susan Matthews Apgood, President and Co-founder of News Generation led the discussion asking each member of the panel about their preferred pitch style and advice on approaching media.
When reaching out via email, Kavitha Cardoza, Special Correspondent for WAMU Radio, suggested sending an email with a unique subject line. “Leave off the Re: and get to the point quickly,” she said. “Preparation before reaching out is really important, so make sure it’s something I’d be interested in.” `
Veteran journalist Neely Tucker, Staff Writer for The Washington Post Magazine, concurred, “Think of yourself as a reporter pitching an editor. You need a news lead and a nut graph” (a term for a nutshell paragraph). “Be accurate, concise and have an idea of what I write about if you want me to do a story.”
For her take, Erica Martinson, Energy & Environment Reporters, POLITICO, said short pitches are better. “Just tell me your story angle and leave some work for me by attaching hyperlinks that I can reference.”
Laura Dunn, Senior Producer, NBC4 who focuses on feature stories and plans her stories months out had a different perspective. “If you’re going to pitch a story, have the data and background readily available and make sure the story has a peg. I love a good people story.”
Building a relationship with reporters is another important aspect to get your pitches read. Meghan McCarthy, Managing Editor, The Morning Consult, said, “if you can give me something exclusive and relevant to what I cover, then over time it becomes a relationship built on trust.”
When asked about turnaround times for exclusives, Kate Sheppard, Senior Reporter and Environment & Energy Reporter, The Huffington Post, said, “be aware of time frames for reporters and be up front if you have your own time constraints.”
Finally, when asked about using social media to reach out to reporters, Amy Harder, Energy Reporter, The Wall Street Journal, warned against it, especially using Twitter’s direct messages to contact them. Instead, she suggested PR pros “reference previous work we’ve done and make us feel special. Who doesn’t like to feel special?”
While each journalist discussed their own perspective and likes/dislikes, they all agreed that building trust with a PR person is key and having something to offer them such as an exclusive or a new angle would help get stories placed. Overall, the key takeaway for the roundtable was the importance of building a mutually beneficial relationship with media and providing them an idea or source that has a unique perspective.