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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Here's comes the pitch! Will it be a topic or a source?

Here's comes the pitch! Will it be a topic or a source?

Here's comes the pitch! Will it be a topic or a source?

Getting a pitch as a journalist is much like being up at bat. You see the pitch come in, but what will it be?
Chances are it’s the standard pitch of a newly released study or announcement, we’ll call that the fastball; easy to hit when it’s set up perfectly. But couple that with a specific source being pitched, and you’ve got yourself a splitter; the pitch takes on a different identity when it’s attached to a specific source.
That begs the question, which one is more important to the journalist? Do they want to write about it because of the topic, or because of the source? Here is what PR pros have to say about pitching a topic versus pitching a source.

Is the source or topic more important in a pitch?

“I work with a lot of startups who are creating technology or using approaches to businesses that aren’t yet being talked about. In this case, an article written about the topic could be beneficial, even if it doesn’t name the company, because it can ignite the conversation, allowing a window of opportunity to offer my client as an expert on the topic,” said Kate Weckerly, PR professional at SSPR.
She added that on the other hand, a primary goal of many clients is lead generation. Being named in an article usually helps to increase brand awareness, SEO and drive traffic to the company website. In most cases, that’s why it’s more important to get the company name into an article.
Weckerly also noted that pitching style changes depending on what the main goal of the pitch is.
“If I’m starting with a pitch that only offers a story idea, and I’m planning to offer sources after the reporter expresses interest, then I use a slightly different approach. I’ll pose a problem related to the industry I’m pitching and formulate questions designed to intrigue reporters enough that they want to know more,” Weckerly said. “Then, when I’ve confirmed they’d like to move forward with the story, I’ll offer sources that can answer those specific questions as the solution to the industry problem I posed in the original pitch.”
On the flip side, when Weckerly is pitching something that offers a source right off the bat, she sets it up in a clear problem-solution format. She ties in relevant statistics and news trends to clearly outline the problem the pitch is trying to address. Then, she offers her client and explains why he or she is the best person to speak about solving the issue, without giving away too much and making an interview with the client unnecessary.
Manid West, account executive at Method Communications agrees, saying “For any pitch, both the topic and the source are equally important to make it successful, however, the more successful pitches are succinct and get to the point quickly. When pitching a source, for example, lead with ‘Expert Insights:’ and then just a couple of words on the topic -- something punchy enough that it is worth the time to read.”

Source change? Send in the pinch-hitter!

If, as a publicist, you run into a situation where you’ve attached a specific source to your pitch, and that source becomes unavailable, you might get a bit of digital side-eye from a journalist.
A lot of times, the reason for this is because journalists have to run pitches by an editor for approval. If the source gets changed up, it might need to be approved again, and that delays the whole process. Or, the source could have been someone very high-up and reputable in a company, and the source replacing them maybe not so much, and that matters when it comes to credibility.
Weckerly provided some tips for PR pros if there is a change-up in sources or the original source becomes unavailable.
1. If you can, offer a different source, but be sure to explain why this new source can speak to the subject that was pitched. The new source can be someone else in the company that was originally pitches, or a different client that also has valuable insight on the topic.
2. If you absolutely cannot find another source to offer, give the reporter as much notice as possible to ensure he or she has sufficient time to find another subject matter expert for their story.
3. Be sincere. The more open and upfront you can be with reporters in these situations, the better. They’re human beings, and sincerity can go a long way.
Jennifer Post graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. Having worked in the food industry, print and online journalism, and marketing, she is now an almost full-time freelance writer. When she's not working, you will find her exploring her current town of Cape May, NJ, trying out a new recipe, or binge-watching the new hottest show on Netflix.
Photo via Pexels

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