[By Kelly McGuire]

For newly-graduated communications professionals, the mere thought of pitching stories to seasoned journalists can be nauseating. However, building relationships with media contacts is crucial to the success of communicators. Politeness can go a long way, but there are some fundamental ground rules to consider when trying to make a good impression.

Fortunately, award-winning reporter Joel J. Wittnebel has shared his advice for earning a journalist’s attention.

While the content of a pitch is important, presentation is key. Make sure your content is easily accessible, whether embedded in the body of an email or as a simple PDF attachment. The harder it is for a reporter to access your content, the less likely they will be to give it the time of day. Flawless spelling and grammar are also essential. Material littered with errors will have a reporter clicking “delete” faster than you can say “press release.”

Would you like to buy a vowel?
While it is fair to provide a reporter with context, avoid being too pushy. No one likes to be told how to do their job, and reporters are no exception. Provide them with the facts, especially value-based information such as the number of attendees or dollars raised. Telling a reporter what to write and why they should write it is unlikely to get your story published. Remember – you’re pitching a story, not selling a used car.

Relevance is relevant
As a PR professional, it’s your job to know where your story will fit. When pitching an idea to a journalist, be knowledgeable about their publication and its outlets. Carefully consider their audience and the appropriateness of your story. Bombarding journalists with pitches that are irrelevant to their audience indicates a lack of research on your part.

It’s their decision
Journalists are trained in the art of storytelling. They enjoy the process of identifying and creating stories. Although PR professionals are also storytellers by trade, it’s sometimes necessary to simply act as a liaison between information and presentation. Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to pick up your story belongs to the journalist.

(Photo by Daniel McCullough via Unsplash)