The PR BlogCreativityStorytelling & WritingHow to Write a PR Pitch: Step-by-Step Guide

How to Write a PR Pitch: Step-by-Step Guide

The art of turning corporate bragging into news stories.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Let me walk you through how to write a PR pitch.

Should you call or email the journalist? 

Calling or email­ing is a hot potato that most journ­al­ists and many pub­lic rela­tions pro­fes­sion­als will recom­mend — email­ing. Still, this doesn’t mean that mak­ing a phone call won’t some­times work bet­ter. 1Among digit­al PR pro­fes­sion­als sur­veyed, 94% said indi­vidu­al emails are still the most effect­ive pitch­ing to journ­al­ists. Among journ­al­ists sur­veyed, 93% said 1:1 emails are the best way to pitch.

Put it like this: If you know that the journ­al­ist is a “phone per­son,” that the tim­ing is good, and that your pitch is urgent enough, by all means, go ahead and make a call instead.

In any case, you should write your pitch down.
Aim for no more than half a page in length.

Here we go:

How to Write a PR Pitch

Start simple: Always intro­duce your­self, cla­ri­fy your affil­i­ation, and ask per­mis­sion to state your business.

My name is Jerry Silfwer, I work at Spin Factory, and I’m [calling/​writing] on behalf of ACME Chemicals. I have a news story about chem­ic­al plants fail­ing to meet envir­on­ment­al- and safety reg­u­la­tions. Would this be a good time to hear me out?

Already at the get-go, I’m clearly stat­ing that I will pitch a news story.

My object­ive is to bring atten­tion to the fact that my cli­ent has gone to great lengths to com­ply with gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions. This is, how­ever, not news.

However, what does this imply if my cli­ent is the only chem­ic­al com­pany to com­ply with the new reg­u­la­tions? It means that all of their com­pet­it­ors are non-com­pli­ant. And that is news.

If the journ­al­ists agree to hear you out, go ahead and frame the conflict:

Two hun­dred forty-one chem­ic­al plants are oper­at­ing in Sweden. According to an unpub­lished paper here in my hand, only 62 are liv­ing up to the government’s new envir­on­ment­al reg­u­la­tions last year. In oth­er words: 3 of 4 of all chem­ic­al plants in Sweden might be haz­ard­ous to the people liv­ing or work­ing near them.

At this point, the journ­al­ist might be ready to jump in. How haz­ard­ous are these plants? Why are they dan­ger­ous? What kind of evid­ence do I have to back my claim up?

In any case, it’s time to pos­i­tion your spokes­per­son:

In light of these dis­turb­ing fig­ures, would you be inter­ested in get­ting your hands on these doc­u­ments and talk­ing exclus­ively with Dr Mary Samsonite at ACME Chemicals about:

— How haz­ard­ous are these plants?
— Where are these poten­tially haz­ard­ous plants situ­ated?
— Why is there no gov­ern­ment­al over­sight to force them to comply?

Once again, the focus is 100% on the news story still. 

Sometimes you can offer exclus­iv­ity; some­times, you can’t. Even though I could come up with 20 rel­ev­ant ques­tions to sug­gest, I kept it to three to cla­ri­fy the pitch.

If you get a straight no, then that’s fine. It hap­pens. If you get a yes or a maybe, you move on with the final part of your writ­ten pitch:

If you’re inter­ested, Dr Mary Samsonite has agreed to meet with you and a pho­to­graph­er on Wednesday at 2 pm or Thursday at 10 am this week. Would any of those slots work for you?

I’m aggress­ively sug­gest­ing a phys­ic­al meet­ing in this fic­ti­tious example, but it depends on the pitch and the con­text. In times of Covid-19, for instance, I’m more likely to pro­pose a Zoom interview.

Now, let’s look at the writ­ten PR pitch as a whole:

My name is Jerry Silfwer, I work at Spin Factory, and I’m [calling/​writing] on behalf of ACME Chemicals. I have a news story about chem­ic­al plants fail­ing to meet envir­on­ment­al- and safety reg­u­la­tions. Would this be a good time to hear me out?

Two hun­dred forty-one chem­ic­al plants are oper­at­ing in Sweden. According to an unpub­lished paper here in my hand, only 62 are liv­ing up to the government’s new envir­on­ment­al reg­u­la­tions last year. In oth­er words: 3 of 4 of all chem­ic­al plants in Sweden might be haz­ard­ous to the people liv­ing or work­ing near them.

In light of these dis­turb­ing fig­ures, would you be inter­ested in get­ting your hands on these doc­u­ments and talk­ing exclus­ively with Dr Mary Samsonite at ACME Chemicals about:

— How haz­ard­ous are these plants?
— Where are these poten­tially haz­ard­ous plants situ­ated?
— Why is there no gov­ern­ment­al over­sight to force them to com­ply?

If you’re inter­ested, Dr Mary Samsonite has agreed to meet with you and a pho­to­graph­er on Wednesday at 2 pm or Thursday at 10 am this week. Would any of those slots work for you?

At this point, allow me to take a step back and appre­ci­ate what’s going on here from the per­spect­ive of the PR client:

Preparing Your PR Pitch

No, ACME Chemicals prob­ably nev­er asked me to pitch a story about poten­tially dan­ger­ous chem­ic­al plants in Sweden: 

This whole thing prob­ably star­ted in a con­fer­ence room where the CEO bragged to me about how they “ran the only chem­ic­al plants in the coun­try in com­pli­ance with the government’s new stricter regulations.”

So, before pitch­ing the report­er, here’s some of the work that I had to do to get the PR pitch into usable shape:

Step 1. When I signed an NDA (non-dis­clos­ure agree­ment), I had to explain to the CEO that ACME Chemical’s reg­u­lat­ory excel­lence is excel­lent but not news.

Step 2. I had to run a study for data or find a way to extract fac­tu­al evid­ence to sup­port and con­firm the claim that zero oth­er chem­ic­al plants in Sweden com­ply with the regulations.

Step 3. With con­firm­a­tion, I had to talk to an expert to learn what non-com­pli­ance in this con­text means regard­ing real risks.

Step 4. I had to vet and pre­pare an in-house expert spokes­per­son — the CEO is cred­ible when it comes to busi­ness mat­ters but not mat­ters of advanced chemistry.

Step 5. I wrote the PR pitch (and often a press release) and got cli­ent approv­al. And yes, cli­ent approv­al can some­times take weeks!

In media rela­tions, pitch­ing the story to a journ­al­ist is not a cru­cial part of the job. The essen­tial part of the job is to identi­fy rel­ev­ant cor­por­ate stor­ies and turn them into the news. That’s where most of my effort is spent.

As for writ­ing the pitch, per­son­al­isa­tion is vital. Your pit should nev­er sound like a tem­plate. 2The most cited reas­on among journ­al­ists for reject­ing a pitch was the lack of per­son­al­isa­tion (Muck Rack, 2020).

Some organ­isa­tions find the concept of news­wor­thi­ness uncom­fort­able. If they’re adam­ant about only brag­ging about their great­ness, politely sug­gest they remove an ad. In an ad, they’ll get to say whatever they want.

Or — which is often an excel­lent option for cor­por­ate suc­cess stor­ies — con­vince the organ­isa­tion to tar­get a trade- or busi­ness ver­tic­al instead.


Please sup­port my PR blog by shar­ing it with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: PR Toolbox

Either write some­thing worth read­ing or do some­thing worth writ­ing.”
— Benjamin Franklin

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PR Resource: Drafting

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Communication Skill: Drafting

Drafting, cre­at­ing, and refin­ing writ­ten doc­u­ments are fun­da­ment­al com­mu­nic­a­tion skills cru­cial in every­day life. From com­pos­ing emails and writ­ing reports to craft­ing per­son­al let­ters or social media posts, the abil­ity to draft and edit doc­u­ments ensures clar­ity, coher­ence, and effect­ive­ness in con­vey­ing messages. 

The first draft of any­thing is shit.”
— Ernest Hemingway

Many indi­vidu­als struggle with writ­ing not because they lack ideas but because they under­es­tim­ate the power of revi­sion. The ini­tial draft is rarely per­fect; it’s through revis­ing this draft — trans­form­ing it into a second, third, or even fourth draft — that one hones the mes­sage, sharpens the lan­guage, and strengthens the over­all communication. 

Developing a habit of draft­ing and edit­ing allows for explor­ing ideas, refin­ing thought, and elim­in­at­ing ambi­gu­ity, mak­ing the final product more impact­ful and under­stood by its inten­ded audi­ence.

To become bet­ter at draft­ing, con­sider these five tips:

  • Embrace the pro­cess. Accept that draft­ing is a pro­cess that involves writ­ing, revis­it­ing, and revis­ing. Your first draft is just the begin­ning, not the end product.
  • Separate writ­ing from edit­ing. Allow your­self to write freely in the ini­tial draft without wor­ry­ing about per­fec­tion. Focus on get­ting your ideas down, then shift to edit­ing mode to refine your work.
  • Read aloud. Reading your draft aloud can help you catch errors, awk­ward phras­ing, and unclear areas. This prac­tice can also improve the rhythm and flow of your writing.
  • Seek feed­back. Don’t hes­it­ate to share your drafts with oth­ers. Feedback can provide new per­spect­ives and insights that you might have overlooked.
  • Use tools wisely. Use writ­ing and edit­ing tools (such as large lan­guage mod­els, gram­mar check­ers, or style guides) to help identi­fy areas for improve­ment. However, always apply your judg­ment to ensure sug­ges­tions align with your inten­ded mes­sage and voice.

Incorporating these strategies into your writ­ing routine can elev­ate your draft­ing skills, lead­ing to clear­er, more com­pel­ling, and more effect­ive writ­ten com­mu­nic­a­tion in every aspect of your life.

Learn more: Communication Skills (That Everyone Should Learn)

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ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 Among digit­al PR pro­fes­sion­als sur­veyed, 94% said indi­vidu­al emails are still the most effect­ive pitch­ing to journ­al­ists. Among journ­al­ists sur­veyed, 93% said 1:1 emails are the best way to pitch.
2 The most cited reas­on among journ­al­ists for reject­ing a pitch was the lack of per­son­al­isa­tion (Muck Rack, 2020).
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has

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