The Anatomy of a PR Pitch – How to Structure & Standardize Pitching Across Your Team

As any PR or communications professional knows, pitching is the single most important skill to possess. While there are various approaches and styles to this, it’s important to find a structure and style for pitching that has had proven success within your industry and then standardize that formula across your team. So how can you streamline the process of pitching to make team members as successful and efficient as possible? First, it’s important to identify the key components that make up every well-rounded PR pitch. While each pitch can, and often will, look a little different, we have found that there are four primary components that should be included in every pitch. Here are the four core components and their definitions:

Lead

The lead is the angle into your story. Keep this as short and concise as possible. A lead should be comprised of one of the following:

    • A news peg is a trending story or topic in the news that relates to what you’re pitching. For example, leveraging the presidential debate or a new medical study that was just released. This allows you to hook the reader with a relevant and widespread story.
    • A time peg represents an upcoming date or event. For example, anniversaries of days like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, days or weeks dedicated to specific causes like “Health IT Week” or “Mental Health Awareness Day,” or even months like “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” These types of dates and events can be easily leveraged for PR purposes as media outlets will often shape content around significant or relevant time pegs. In order to keep track and take advantage of these dates, it’s helpful to create and consistently update an internal editorial calendar with your team.
Call to action (CTA)

This is the action that you want your audience to take. For instance, in our case this would often include speaking with a professor or publishing an infographic or blog on behalf of our clients.

Value proposition

This is where you allow yourself to stand out and differentiate yourself from the competition. Demonstrate the significance of what you’re pitching and why it’s important. What value would it provide to their publication and readership? How does it relate to the larger story? These are some of the questions you should address.

Conclusion

Quickly thank them for their time and reiterate what your goal or call to action (CTA) is. Keep this brief and to the point.

There are questions that you should always be asking yourself when writing a pitch. Here are a few of the important ones to keep in mind:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is the larger story?
  • Why should they care about what you’re pitching?
  • What value does this provide them?
  • What story are you creating in your pitch?

To see how this formula looks in practice, I’ve included a pitch below which is color coded based on the four components I described above.

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Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team, and she has worked with partners such as HP, Cisco, and Adobe. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

Four Lessons from my Internship in Digital Marketing

Entering a digital marketing internship can be intimidating, especially when the field is in higher education, where you’re being counted on by universities to professionally represent them and help spread their messages. While the responsibilities at Circa Interactive can be greater than many other internship settings, they ultimately drive you to become dedicated to your work and learn new skills at a high level. Here are four empowering lessons I learned during my time at Circa.

1. Ask for Criticism: It’s How You Grow

Throughout my internship, new concepts and ideas were constantly flying my way. Building out a social calendar, creating media lists on Cision for pitches, and writing pitches that will reach editors of major publications are likely new tasks for someone just entering the digital marketing field. In order to become familiar with one of these new tasks, digital marketers should take their time, but mistakes are bound to happen (which isn’t a bad thing). But sometimes you don’t know if you’re approaching a list from the wrong angle or if your pitch isn’t quite tailored to your list in the most relevant manner possible, which is why asking for criticism is so important. I’ve always thought of positive feedback as criticism only half-baked, so I made it a goal to seek out what it is I do correctly AS WELL AS incorrectly, using the talent pool in the office as a resource for any questions or problems I encountered.

2. Be Flexible and Experiment (with Pitches)

The work environment at Circa is about exploring better ways to accomplish your goals. This can be seen in everything from daily collaboration to how the team shares ideas in the online chat tool called Slack, as well as the weekly editorial meetings that serve as a mini incubator session. You’re given the green light to be flexible and experiment with how you market content and connect professors with the media, so do it! For example, when writing dozens of pitches per week, a little tweak in the subject line or the way you introduce your infographic can really make a difference in the number of responses and publications. You won’t know what works unless you try.

3. Use Social Media as a Daily Learning Experience

Writing copy for social media at Circa Interactive is a truly unique experience, because Circa works with a diverse range of higher education programs. That means every time you build a Facebook/Twitter social calendar for one of the dozens of programs, you’re keeping up to date with the industry news, trends and innovations taking place in such diverse fields as computer science, marketing, and engineering. The goal is to educate the program’s current and prospective audience, which means the person writing the copy for the social calendars has to put in a lot of research. This is why I embraced social media, because it allowed me to keep learning while coming across content that could end up being the lead in the next perfect pitch for our media outreach.

4. Peg ‘em

The ultimate goal when pitching to a journalist is to satisfy the question, “Why should they care?” It’s usually not enough just to have crisp, educational, enticing content. Like most things in marketing, a pitch should be relevant and time sensitive. Attaching (or “pegging”) a recent event in the news relevant to your prospect and pitch can help answer the above question. Think about it, you’re competing against dozens if not hundreds of emails at a time to get an editor’s attention. Just like everything in life, that extra step can be the difference between hearing crickets and landing an opportunity.

Working in higher education has given me a great appreciation for how important digital marketing is to the success of our programs, their students, and the educational system as a whole. These past 4 months at Circa have been instrumental in packing my digital marketing arsenal, which I plan to use for my family’s business as well as for my future business endeavors.

Dennis Donchev is a marketing intern at Circa Interactive and a student at San Diego State University.