Basic training: Creating a successful PR pitch

September 5, 2018 • 6 minute read

As we bid farewell to our summer interns, we’re publishing a series of posts they wrote based on interviews with Infinite Global staff.

Pitching is one of the most fundamental elements of any career in legal PR, but it’s not easy. At least, successful pitching isn’t easy — that takes practice. But there are certain well-established rules that can increase one’s chances of success.

Be well informed

Every lawyer has at least one specialty, so take the time to monitor for their specific subject matter in the news, and keep track of which journalists cover those issues.

“When writing a pitch, it can be very helpful to ask yourself a few questions,” says Infinite Global Senior Account Executive Ada Oni-Eseleh. Start with:

  • Why would my client want to provide commentary on this topic? How would it contribute to their strategic goals?
  • Am I successfully and succinctly conveying in my pitch why this topic is important and why a journalist should care?
  • If a journalist calls me to discuss my pitch, am I prepared to intelligently discuss the topic? How can my client add to the conversation?

Knowing the scope of what a client would feel comfortable commenting on and being able to find those opportunities is also key. Legal PR professionals need to keep in mind what potential conflicts of interest exist for their clients, so that they can make sure this does not interfere with a pitch.

Send the pitch to a targeted media list

A good media list can make or break a pitch. Rather than just sending a pitch to as many journalists as one can, legal public relations professionals should compile a list of people who they know would be interested in the topic.

When sending out a proposal, tailor certain aspects to what would most interest the specific reporter. Simply sending out the same pitch to as many people as possible is ineffective.

It is important to note that while mainstream publications can be great to pitch, particularly given their massive audience reaches, they should not be a PR person’s “all or nothing.” Make sure to target all publications that reach the audiences the client is interested in getting in front of, which could include smaller, niche publications.

“You could write a knockout pitch that’s timely, well-researched and well-written, but how much does that matter if you are sending it to all of the wrong people?” Ada asks.

“Targeting the right journalists is imperative to a successful pitch, so I suggest spending time familiarizing yourself with the journalists and outlets that cover the topic, and tailoring the pitch accordingly,” Ada advises.

Create meaningful relationships

Successful pitching begins with developing good relationships with journalists. That means following them on social media and liking or retweeting their stories on Twitter. By showing an interest in their work, the interaction becomes less of a sales pitch, and more of a mutually beneficial conversation, which is in both parties’ favor.

“You will have more success building and sustaining long-term relationships with reporters if you understand their specific areas of interest and convey how your clients can be helpful for their ongoing coverage,” says Ada.

Use a good subject line

The subject line of a pitch will often be the first thing a reporter sees, so it needs to be eye-catching, but also concise and relevant. Subject lines should be tailored to grab the attention of the specific reporter. However, PR professionals need to make sure they do not get too creative with their pitches and stray from the hard facts; one does not want to mislead the reporter.

Be unique

One of the most important aspects of a pitch is researching what has already been said on a topic and finding a different angle. Developing a fresh take on a story will increase the chances of a journalist using one’s client as a source.

Legal PR people should highlight why their lawyer client is a good fit to provide commentary on the topic, and convey how the client would add value to the story. Just as PR people are looking out for their clients, journalists are looking out for their readers.

“I think one of the most positive pieces of feedback you can receive from a journalist is that your pitch stood out in their crowded inbox,” says Ada. “Our clients’ experience and backgrounds speak for themselves, so credentialing our sources isn’t really an issue. But explaining how our clients can elevate a story or talk about an issue that hasn’t yet been widely reported often makes our pitches stand out.”

Communicate clearly and effectively

For the body of a pitch, it is important to make the key area of interest clear early on. Background on the subject should be included for reference.

Be sure to include the client’s name, title and affiliation, and a hyperlink to their bio on their law firm website. It may also be helpful to include a sample of the client’s prior commentary on the subject, and relevant past cases they have been involved in.

Hyperlinks are generally fine for all reference material, providing they go to a reliable source that does not require sign-up to access. Also, take care not to include attachments in the email — rather, be courteous and ask the journalist if they would like to receive the extra material.

The tone of the pitch should be professional, but not overly formal; it should be a conversation.

Follow up with all parties

After sending out the pitch, it is essential to follow up with both the client and the media.

On the media-facing side, touching base a day or two after sending the initial pitch can be a great way to refresh the topic for reporters and get feedback that one can share with the client.

On the client-facing side, PR professionals should always report which journalists and publications are interested in conducting interviews or receiving content, as well as any feedback received on the pitch.

After securing interest and setting up an interview between the journalist and the client, PR professionals should oversee the entire process to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Once the interview occurs, follow up with the journalist on any additional information they might need and when the article will come out, then communicate that information back to the client. Open communication will insure that the opportunity goes well and that there are no surprises.

“Overall, I think that one of the biggest things to remember is that pitching is not one-size-fits-all, and that includes the follow-up,” says Ada. “A lot of journalists appreciate a follow-up since they receive so many messages each day, however, a lot of journalists do not.”

Some journalists prefer email follow-ups; some prefer phone calls. As PR professionals interact with the same journalists regularly, they should pay attention to their preferred follow-up style and make necessary adjustments.

“Pitching to the media is a dynamic process in which PR professionals will adapt and learn from practice,” says Ada. Keeping in mind these basic tips will help ensure the pitch process goes as smoothly as possible and produces the best results for clients.

Contact Infinite Global for help improving your law firm’s media relations efforts.

Paige Weidner is completing an internship at Infinite Global before returning to the University of Michigan, where she is a rising senior majoring in communication studies, with a minor in science, technology and society.