Here Comes the Pitch

Stan O'Neill
October 27, 2022

Getting your pitch read instead of sent back to the bullpen

It’s a ubiquitous experience for anyone with an email address – a cluttered inbox brimming with spam, work correspondence and billing reminders for the streaming service you used to watch the Giants play the Dodgers that one time. Now, imagine you’re a reporter, and your inbox totals tens of thousands of emails. One lazy pitch can damage your relationship with a reporter and land you on the blocked list. This is untenable, as media relationships should be a key part of your PR strategy. In baseball, it’s three strikes, and you’re out. But journalists are understandably overworked and inundated with emails, most being thinly veiled requests amounting to “do something for me.” PR pitching is not as forgiving as an MLB umpire, even as we enter the dire and dramatic atmosphere of the World Series.

If you’re an underdog (Phillies, anyone?), a good pitch can still make a big difference in your client’s PR success. To pitch a perfect game, you need to do three things quickly. You need to grab attention and engage. You need to provide value to a reporter through a compelling story with a human context. And you need to provide facts that translate to a unique perspective. It needs to be a fastball, a curveball and a change-up all at once. As the World Series begins, Engage PR took some time between innings to outline tips on crafting a pitch that provides value to a reporter and enhances your chances of coverage.

The pitcher’s arsenal

Art of the fastball – get to the point: Speed and word economy are vital. Reporters don’t have time to read a sprawling email where you wax poetic about technology that’s unfamiliar to them. Tell them why it’s important quickly, ideally without a lengthy string of industry acronyms. Think of it like a closing pitcher throwing 103 MPH. Get in, knock ‘em down, then get out. Brevity is the name of the game.

Spinning a curveball – find the human angle: This can be the most challenging aspect – spinning the announcement to find its larger emotional resonance. We’re all humans, so we all love stories. The reporter is essentially the conduit to the market for your client’s story, but it must be an interesting story to make it past the plate (or spam filter). Make sure your pitch focuses on the relatable problem this announcement solves for real people. Where does it fit into the client’s journey? Why should people outside of the company care? Answer these questions and you’re already 90% there.

Lobbing a change-up – set them up for success: Figure out a way to grab the reporter’s attention by helping them write a story that stands out. Don’t be afraid to get a little unorthodox, but make sure you’re still adding value to the reporter’s work with unique details. Be original and provide relevant facts. If I may mix sports metaphors, your pitch should set your reporter up for an easy layup. But it needs to be interesting enough to keep their readership’s attention.

Make your subject line count!

Smartphones have shattered the attention span like a baseball through a neighbor’s bay window. It isn’t our fault, it’s reality. Reporters have limited time due to intense workloads and deadlines. You should make your subject line engaging and succinct. Approach your subject line like it’s the only thing your reporter will read (quite likely) and tell your client’s story concisely with it. For example, which one of these subject lines is more effective?

Cloud-based SASE security company shows speeds faster than competing SASE and CASB products while integrating web vulnerability scanning, social-engineering-proof browser-based authentication and secure SD-WAN

Security vendor 40x faster than competitors, industry-first performance prevents remote users from sacrificing security for deadline pressure

The first subject line doesn’t really specify what this announcement means for anyone else and includes marketing details that are irrelevant to the actual achievement. Additionally, it’s showing a lack of research by speaking in absolute terms (“social-engineering-proof”) about cybersecurity – a field where credibility is damaged by claiming a solution is 100 percent safe. The client always comes first, especially when they’re telling their own story. But it’s important to do your research while remembering where the client fits into the big picture when you’re the one telling their story.

The second identifies the exact performance results and the hybrid work problem that the company is solving; namely, that remote workers often circumvent slow security products when they’re under deadline pressure. Most importantly, it specifies what is new about this recent achievement and doesn’t rely on industry acronyms. In a broad sense, it’s comprised of specifics instead of generalities and feels more interesting because it’s telling a human story with market relevance.

One last tip – no single pitch style works for every reporter. Do your research to ensure your pitch is tailored to your chosen reporter, their area of expertise and their previous work. Doing your research is the easiest way to impress your reporter. Ultimately, intellectual curiosity should be the ‘secret sauce’ in your PR strategy.

Batter up!

Baseball puns notwithstanding, we hope this is helpful in crafting your pitches. What helps the most in your own strategy? Do you think the Astros will beat the spread? Let us know and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter. We wish you luck in your journey to becoming the PR Nolan Ryan – get out of that bullpen and put some mustard on the ball!


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