National journalist: Write your pitch backwards

What could you learn if you watched a national journalist react to real pitches in real time?

Here I’ll share one of the key nuggets my Inner Circle members heard this week when I hosted a writer from Axios. He was kind enough to let me use screen sharing to show him 14 actual pitches from members and give constructive criticism on each one.

Register for our Inner Circle Wait List to get free access to more of his tips, which will be sent to Wait Listers next week.

As we watched him read each pitch and listened to his initial thinking-out-loud, I noticed something and asked him about it.

Yes, he said, he usually skims the pitch first and looks for what he referred to as “the action item.” Then, if he finds that useful, he starts over and reads in more depth.

“The action item” or “call to action” is usually the last sentence in most pitches. It’s the line where you offer an expert for an interview, or promise access to something new, or any kind of next step.

He also emphasized that he prefers pitches that are clearly written to him as one person, with a conversational style. Combining this with his penchant for seeking out the “action item,” we concluded that a better pitch format would go in the opposite order of most pitches.

It would start with a personalized greeting, and then go right to the offer. “I’m writing to offer an interview with an expert on (that news that just broke). Here’s why she’s a good interview for you . . .”

Here’s why this will pay off for you. When he couldn’t quickly tell what exactly the pitch was offering, he lost interest and moved to the next one. But if I called him back to the contents of the middle of the pitch, sometimes he would then realize it was actually newsworthy and dig deeper.

It was amazing to see how much influence you have as a pitch writer. Because something as simple as the order of the items in your pitch has the power to grab or lose a journalist right from the beginning.

You can get more details, including a clip of one pitch review, for free next week if you right now register for our Inner Circle Wait List. That’s the list of people who want to get more info about the program in anticipation of the next time we open for new members.

Inner Circle members get immediate access to this entire session, plus previous pitch reviews I’ve conducted with producers from TODAY and CNN, editors from the Washington Post and Reuters, reporters from the WSJ, and several more

This article was originally published on September 14, 2022

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