How to Pitch a Press Release

News reporter or TV journalist at press conference, holding microphone and writing notes

On any given day, news organizations receive hundreds, if not thousands, of pitches, many of which journalists dismiss as unrelated to the issues they cover. The sheer volume is also prohibitive. Journalists simply don’t have the time to sift through them all. 

These are just some of the key findings of a comprehensive survey conducted by growth marketing agency Fractl involving about 1,300 writers, editors, publishers, and contributors.  

To improve your chances of connecting with a reporter, we’ve compiled tips from public relations experts who’ve made pitching to journalists an art form, including FleishmanHillard Senior Vice President and Partner Jan Rasmussen

“Reporters tell us that they receive up to 300 irrelevant emails per day, and what that tells you is that media relations practitioners haven't done their homework,” she says. “They haven't taken the time to walk around in the reporter's shoes, so to speak, and understand their role in communicating valuable information to their audiences.”

Robert Wynne, owner of Wynne Public Relations and Wynne Events and a former contributor to Forbes, underscores this difficulty. 

“It's not easy to pitch journalists because with so many layoffs and firings in the media, there are fewer reporters to pitch and more PR people—many of them former journalists—reaching out to them,” he explains. 

It’s clear your pitch needs to stand out. So, how do you ensure your email will be clicked on? 

News Direct offers the following tips:

Target the Right Reporter

Eighty percent of publishers say a pitch irrelevant to their beat is a common reason for declining, Fractl’s research found. 

“Many stories fail to land because they are emailed to the right publication but the wrong journalist,” explains Wynne.

What’s your press release about? The answer to this question will help you find the right reporter to pitch. Don’t just send an email to the publication’s general inquiry address. Match the topic of your press release with the various types of beats, or specializations, available. Then, build a target media list. 

News Direct has partnered with Agility PR Solutions to streamline this process. Our exclusive integration, DB Direct™ Media Database, can increase the exposure of your story with targeted high-performance media lists of your choosing. With a DB Direct™ plan, you'll have access to a global database of more than 1 million media contacts and outlets. Easily search journalists by beat, media type, location, and more directly within the News Direct platform. Seamlessly curate contact lists and send email pitches directly from the platform. 


Put Yourself in the Reporter’s Shoes

Think like a reporter. 

“There are only two ways to obtain media placements—create the news or follow the news,” says Wynne.

If you want your press release turned into a news story, you have to provide value to the reader. Ask yourself if the story is relevant, why it matters, and if it’s related to a current event of cultural conversation. If you decide it is relevant, it’s your job to explain why the news is necessary, such as how it solves a problem, meets a community need, creates opportunity, or represents a significant initiative, Rasmussen says. 

“Remember, we are living in an overwhelming media environment in which the COVID-19 crisis, multiple political and social issues, and the economic crisis are at the forefront of reporters' minds,” reminds Rasmussen. “Don't let your email be one of those 300 irrelevant emails landing in their inbox–and soon deleted.”


Develop a Relationship

Developing a relationship with journalists who cover your industry is a surefire way to increase the odds of acceptance. Don’t just reach out to your contact when you’re asking them to cover your latest news. Engage more deeply.

Start a dialogue before you have a pitch ready. Always personalize that initial touchpoint. Lifestyle journalist Michele Koh Morollo explains she’s more likely to click on an email if it includes her name in the salutation, rather than just “Hello.” Introduce yourself and your organization. Take it a step further by following them on social media platforms such as Instagram or Twitter. Interact with their tweets by liking and retweeting, and comment on their photos. 

Don’t forget about the junior staffers, advises 5W Public Relations CEO Ronn Torossian. With more than 20 years of experience creating powerful narratives, he shares his thoughts about the best ways to pitch press releases to journalists:

“One tip I can share that I’ve personally found effective, is to pitch the underlings,” Torossian says. “It’s an often overlooked approach since many publicists want to land big stories written by big names, but there is great value in building relationships with junior reporters and producers who are more accessible than senior staff. In pitching them a great story, you’ve set the foundations for a relationship where they continue to cover your pitches as they grow and advance in their own careers.”



Seventy percent of publishers prefer to collaborate on ideas as opposed to 30 percent who want to receive a finished asset, Fractl’s “Pitching Publishers Survey” reports. This means the outlet doesn’t want to repost your press release with a staff byline. They want to make it their own, add a twist on the subject, and interview additional sources. 

How can you indicate your team is willing to collaborate?

Generate several article ideas for the journalist when sending your pitch. Send every media outlet different pitch topics to stimulate other ideas. Ensure it’s clear that interviews are available. List the names and titles of the sources you can provide. 

“One tip I can share that I’ve personally found effective, is to pitch the underlings,” Torossian says. “It’s an often overlooked approach since many publicists want to land big stories written by big names, but there is great value in building relationships with junior reporters and producers who are more accessible than senior staff.


Use a Catchy Subject Line

The subject line is the part of your pitch that’s going to make a journalist click open. You want this brief line of copy to stand out among the hundreds of others in the inbox. 

Fractl partnered with PR outreach platform BuzzStream to conduct the study “How to Write Effective Email Subject Lines That Drive Open Rates.” It found a majority of respondents preferred subject lines with lengths between six to 10 words. These eye-catchers should also be tailored to the specific journalist and their beat. Include statistics, content titles or a direct pitch that focuses on the most interesting aspect of the story. Keywords “raw data” and “exclusive” are quick ways to funnel your email to the open list. 

Now, let’s focus on what not to do.

Koh Morollo suggests you leave the phrase “press release” out of your subject line. Also avoid the words “pitch” and “story idea.” Don’t add emojis, all caps or excessive exclamation points. And although you may have been advised to start your email with “Re:” or “Fwd:”—don’t do it. Journalists will see right through this tactic. 


Write the Perfect Pitch

Writing the perfect pitch may sound intimidating, but it’s actually quite simple. Just follow these guidelines:

  • Keep your pitch short. The aforementioned “Pitching Publishers Survey” found writers want a pitch under 200 words. 
  • Always double check your grammar and spelling. Your pitch may find its way to the trash if it has any errors.
  • Answer the 5Ws and 1H: who, what, when, where, why, and how. It can be a good idea to create bullet points listing these elements under your pitch, so if the journalist only has a chance to skim, they can garner the important details. 
  • Spice it up. Don’t just throw basic information at a journalist and expect them to run with it. Make them understand why it’s important to the public and their readers. Include exclusive research or a catchy lede. 
  • Follow a format. Start off with a salutation including their name. Introduce yourself, including your name, title, and company. Express your interest in their publication, then let them know your article or information is the perfect fit for their reader demographic, whichever this may be. Add in your hook—why should they care? Summarize three topics or takeaways from the release. Mention you have attached a press release with further information. Finally, ask whether or not they would be interested and provide your contact information for follow-up. Don’t forget to attach your press release to the email.


Include Multimedia

According to the 2019 News Direct Market Assessment study, 86 percent of journalists find standalone media appealing. 

Koh Morollo underscores this desire, stating, “Including a photo of the property, product or service within the body of the email usually gets my attention.” 

Journalists are requesting infographics, images, videos, and other mixed-media content, so give it to them. Stand out from the crowd. Include multimedia in your pitch, or pitch standalone multimedia. 

News Direct is the first news distribution company that enables PR professionals to disseminate multimedia content as independent assets. With Digital Asset Direct™ you can grab journalists’ attention by distributing standalone infographics, videos, and images direct to media outlets, without having to embed them in a news release. 


Send at the Right Time

Enhance your success by clicking send at the right time. If your press release contains the date of an event or product launch, submit it early so the reporter can provide coverage leading up to the date. You also want to factor in the possibility of scheduling an interview with reporters and ticket sale end times. Remember to follow up closer to the date as a reminder. 

Research has shown the best days to click the send button are Thursdays, Mondays, and Tuesdays. Avoid sending pitches early in the mornings and late in the afternoons. Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. are your best bet. 

“Pitching is hard work with big rewards,” says 5W’s Torossian. “Even after being in the business for 20-plus years, it’s incredibly satisfying to see your pitch land and that story reach millions. It never gets old.”


Follow Up

When we say follow up, we don’t mean via phone. Calling a busy journalist to find out if they received your email can be the quickest way to ruin your pitch. Don’t worry; they received it. And they understood it. They’ll respond to you when they have the time to follow through if they’re interested. 

However, there is a chance your pitch slipped through the inbox, so wait a week before sending a follow-up email. Keep it brief—shorter than the original pitch. Simply reply to your original email with a line letting them know you’re following up on your previous message. Outline the release in one sentence. Ask if they’re the right reporter to contact and if not, if they could please forward your message to the right person. Include your contact information so they can reach out to you if interested.


The Takeaway

“Pitching is hard work with big rewards,” says 5W’s Torossian. “Even after being in the business for 20-plus years, it’s incredibly satisfying to see your pitch land and that story reach millions. It never gets old.”

Don’t give up. Keep following up with journalists and form relationships deeper than pitches. Track your response and open rates, keeping tabs on which pitches did better than others or which days work best for your industry. Adjust your copy and strategies according to your results. Creating the perfect pitch takes time and lots of trial and error, but if you incorporate these tips from the pros, you’re more likely to stand out in a journalist’s inbox. 


News Direct can help your company or agency reach top-tier websites such as Associated Press, Yahoo! Finance, Factiva, and MarketWatch. With a global distribution reach, News Direct can help you get your company or clients in front of journalists across the world for flat-rate fees. 

Learn about how News Direct can help you stand out in a reporter’s inbox.