Journalists are humans too

Maybe you saw Hoda Kotb get emotional last year on Today. Maybe you've seen Anderson Cooper start giggling on air. Most of us have seen a mistake someone missed that ended up in print. These are good reminders that journalists, editors, and anchors are humans.

You know this, of course. But does it influence the way you pitch? Here’s how it should:

Pitch a person, not a media outlet. The pitches shared in my Inner Circle forum say things like, “I’m pitching Florence Fabricant, a food and wine writer for The New York Times,” as opposed to “I’m sending this to the NYT.” Zeroing in on the right person helps you target your pitch properly, and allows you to create a customized intro to keep your journalist reading past the first line.

Know what they look like. My experience has shown that pulling up a picture of the person you’re addressing changes the tone and feeling of your pitch. The subtle shift from ‘random reporter at this magazine’ to ‘human being with brown hair and glasses’ comes across in your email.

Follow them on social. You’ll learn some basic things about them as a person as well as helpful tidbits such as they’re going out of town for two weeks, they’re working on a tech story, or they just moved to a new city.

Understand the demands they're facing. When you do, you won’t send them a long email about your amazing client. You’ll send them a concise pitch that makes their job easier by offering an expert, source, or visual. One Inner Circle member got an email back from a young journalist when the story he wrote about her client made it onto his national outlet’s “most viewed” leaderboard. How do our pitches change when we’re motivated not just by the desire to impress our boss, but to help our journalist friends impress their bosses?

Get to know their preferences. There are definitely principles to follow when pitching, but a lot of it comes down to what your specific journalists prefer. Some like a casual/conversational tone, others are all business. Some like catchy subject lines that could be headlines, while others prefer it straight.

Don’t let the glossy headshots and perfect diction obscure the fact that the people we’re pitching are in fact people. They have interests, needs, and preferences that vary widely. And yes, it takes time to learn those things, but I promise you, it will be time well spent.

This article was originally published on October 6, 2021

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