Part one in a series.
To “pitch” a reporter or assignment editor on a news-worthy story is to call them up-typically after sending them a news release-and attempt to persuade them that they should come out (or send a reporter) and cover whatever you want them to cover (probably an upcoming event that you’re planning). A good pitch call is at least as important as sending a good news release. With a call, unlike a news release, you are creating a memory of a human-to-human interaction. It’s your opportunity to make a strong impression so that when the reporter or editor goes into their morning or afternoon meeting-where they’re deciding which stories to cover-they are more likely to suggest covering your event.
Reporters and editors are busy people. They typically sound as if they are unhappy that you reached them by phone, and you’re lucky to get a full minute of their time. An effective pitch call makes a strong impression within the first five seconds, and makes at least the start of a compelling case within ten seconds.
For comparison, here’s an example of an ineffective pitch call:
Hi. My name is [name]. I’m calling about an event that we’re organizing. The event will be here in Manhattan. We’ll be doing performance in the streets, protesting the Iraq War. Iraq Veterans Against the War is organizing the event, along with their allies…
I would have been lucky to get that far without being interrupted. Now, here’s an example of an effective pitch call:
Hi, I’m [name], calling on behalf of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Tomorrow combat veterans who recently returned from Iraq will be patrolling the streets of Manhattan, dressed in full uniform. They’re staging mock combat operations similar to what they experienced in Iraq – to show New Yorkers the realities of military occupation. Did you receive our press release?