5 Pitching Rules Every PR Pro Should Live By


We’ve all seen journalist’s blog posts and tweets griping about bad PR pitches. Some of the most common complaints from reporters include addressing them with the wrong name, pitching a story that’s not their beat and sending pitches that are too long. Below we’ve listed five pitching rules to help you avoid the trash bin and instead get your email pitches opened and read.

1) Do Your Research

Instead of building a massive media list full of reporters who might be interested in your client’s story, BIGfish recommends spending that time building a highly targeted list with the best reporters for your pitch. When building your media list, make sure you know what that journalist has been writing about lately, and that your client’s story fits in with those pieces. If they’ve written about a similar product or company recently, mention it!

2) Refine Your Subject Line

Interesting subject lines will, of course, increase the chances that someone opens your email. Taking the time to decide on the best subject line that informs and entices is important. Another BIGfish tip is to write subject lines like journalists write their headlines. Doing this not only helps a journalist see the story shaping up right away, but makes their job a little easier in a world where headline writers no longer exist. For example, BuzzFeed headlines are notoriously alluring and follow such a strict formula that they have a BuzzFeed Headline Generator – a robot that randomly creates original BuzzFeed-style headlines.


Make note of how journalists in your industry write their headlines and try a few subject lines that follow the same patterns. Additionally, if you’re pitching out a story and not getting as many responses as you expected, don’t be afraid to stop, take a step back, and rework your subject and/or pitch.

3) Get to the Point

Journalists write concisely and so should you. Remember, they write for a living, so they’ll know if you’re fluffing up your pitch with buzzwords.

Mention your client’s product or company up front, concisely describe what they do and explain your reason for writing (which should be something timely and newsworthy within their beat). Journalists will appreciate your efficiency. A good way to include additional information without writing it out in your pitch is to link to external sources and offer them the opportunity to speak with your client.

4) Offer the Exclusive

Offering an exclusive to just one journalist is mutually beneficial for the reporter and your client. The reporter is happy because they get to break the news before anyone else, and your client will get coverage on their announcement.

When pitching an exclusive story, start off by including “exclusive” in your subject line, and be sure to note that the information you’re sharing is under embargo until the date you will make your announcement. If they decide to run with the story, you’ll need to work closely with them to keep them in the loop. It’s crucial to coordinate timing on an exclusive to make sure the reporter is ready to publish their story as soon as your client makes the announcement.

5) Follow Up

Every PR pro knows the value of following up on a pitch. However, journalists’ responses to follow-ups can range from “Thanks so much for following up, I missed your previous note!” to “please do not follow up. If I don’t respond the first time, I’m not interested.” There are a few important rules to follow to make sure you’re not annoying the person on the receiving end of your follow-up:

  • Give a reporter a few days to read your email, mull it over, and respond to you before you check in with them again.
  • Keep your follow up short and sweet – all important information should have been in your initial pitch, anyway.
  • If your story is really urgent, a phone call follow-up is generally acceptable (as long as you followed rule #1).
  • Reporters are busy people typically working with tight deadlines. Always be respectful of their time. If they pass on your story, don’t bother them about it again.

Pitch away!

Now you’re ready to get started! Remember, the best way to avoid the most common pitching mistakes is to always treat reporters with respect and always be polite. If you do this well enough, you’ll start to build trust and eventually create lasting relationships with journalists, making it easy to work on future stories with them.

Are we missing any important pitching rules you would have included? Tweet us @BIGfishPR and let us know!

Brigid Gorham


BIG fish PR is an unconventional agency that helps its clients redefine their industries.