How to write a PR pitch

The art of turning corporate bragging into news stories.

Let me walk you through how to write a PR pitch.

First, should you call or email the journalist?

Well, this is a hot potato where most journalists and many public relations professionals will recommend — email. Still, this doesn’t mean that making a phone call won’t ever work.

Put it like this: If you know a) that the journalist is a “phone-person”, b) that the timing is good, and c) that your pitch is urgent enough, by all means, go ahead and make a call instead.

In any case, you should write your pitch down.
Aim for no more than half a page in length.

Let’s get to writing your PR pitch, shall we?

How to compose a PR pitch

Start simple: Always begin by introducing yourself, clarify your affiliation, and ask for permission to state your business.

My name is Jerry Silfwer, I work at Spin Factory and I’m [calling/writing] on behalf of ACME Chemicals. I have a news story about chemical plants failing to meet environmental- and safety regulations. Would this be a good time to hear me out?

Already at the get-go, I’m clearly stating that I will be pitching a news story.

My actual job is, of course, to bring attention to the fact that my client has gone to great lengths to comply with government regulations. This is, however, not news.

However, if my client is the only chemical company to comply with the new regulations, what does this imply? It implies that all of their competitors are non-compliant. And that is news.

If the journalists agrees to hear you out, go ahead and frame the conflict:

There are 241 chemical plants operating in Sweden. According to an unpublished paper here in my hand, only 62 are living up to the new environmental regulations set forth by the government last year. Put in other words: 3 of 4 of all chemical plants in Sweden might be hazardous to the people living or working near them.

At this point, the journalist might be ready to jump in. How hazardous are these plants? Why are they hazardous? What kind of evidence do I have to back my claim up?

In any case, it’s time to position your spokesperson:

In light of these disturbing figures, would you be interested in getting your hands on these documents and talking exclusively with Dr. Mary Samsonite at ACME Chemicals about:

— How hazardous are these plants?
— Where are these potentially hazardous plants situated?
— Why is there no governmental oversight to force them to comply?

Once again, the focus is 100% on the news story, still.

Sometimes you can offer exclusivity, sometimes you can’t. Even though I could come up with 20 relevant questions to suggest, I personally keep it to three just to clarify the pitch.

If you get a straight no, then that’s fine. It happens. If you get a yes or a maybe, you move on with the final part of your written pitch:

If you’re interested, Dr. Mary Samsonite have agreed to meet with you and a photographer either on Wednesday at 2pm or Thursday at 10am this week. Would any of those slots work for you?

In this fictitious example, I’m quite aggressively suggesting a physical meeting with an added photographer, but this is all depending on the pitch and the context.1

Now, let’s look at the written PR pitch as a whole:

My name is Jerry Silfwer, I work at Spin Factory and I’m [calling/writing] on behalf of ACME Chemicals. I have a news story about chemical plants failing to meet environmental- and safety regulations. Would this be a good time to hear me out?

There are 241 chemical plants operating in Sweden. According to an unpublished paper here in my hand, only 62 are living up to the new environmental regulations set forth by the government last year. Put in other words: 3 of 4 of all chemical plants in Sweden might be hazardous to the people living or working near them.

In light of these disturbing figures, would you be interested in getting your hands on these documents and talking exclusively with Dr. Mary Samsonite at ACME Chemicals about:

— How hazardous are these plants?
— Where are these potentially hazardous plants situated?
— Why is there no governmental oversight to force them to comply?


If you’re interested, Dr. Mary Samsonite have agreed to meet with you and a photographer either on Wednesday at 2pm or Thursday at 10am this week. Would any of those slots work for you?

At this point, allow me to take us a step back and appreciate what’s really going on here from the perspective of the PR client:

Preparing your PR pitch

No, ACME Chemicals probably never asked me to pitch a story about potentially dangerous chemical plants in Sweden:

This whole thing probably started in a conference room where the CEO was bragging to me about how they “ran the only chemical plants in the country in compliance with the government’s new stricter regulations.”

So, before pitching the reporter, here’s some of the work that I had to do to get the PR pitch into usable shape:

Step 1. When I’ve signed an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), I had to explain to the CEO that ACME Chemical’s regulatory excellence is great, but not news.

Step 2. I had to run a study for data or find a way to extract factual evidence to support and confirm the claim that zero other chemical plants in Sweden are in compliance with the regulations.

Step 3. With confirmation, I had to talk to an expert to learn what non-compliance in this context actually means in terms of real risks.

Step 4. I had to vet and prepare an in-house expert spokesperson — the CEO is credible when it comes to matters of business, but not matters of advanced chemistry.

Step 5. I had to write the PR pitch (and often also a press release) and get client approval. And yes, client approval cam sometimes take weeks!

You see? In media relations, pitching the story to a journalist is not the crucial part of the job. The crucial part of the job is to identify relevant corporate stories and turn them into news. That’s where most of my effort is spent.

Obviously, some organizations find real news stories uncomfortable. If they’re adamant about only bragging about how great they are, politely suggest them to take out an ad. In an ad, they’ll get to say whatever they want, right?

Or — and this is often times an excellent option for corporate success stories — convince the organization to target a trade- or business vertical instead.

Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer.

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  1. In times of Covid-19 for example, I’m obviously more likely to propose a Zoom interview.
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Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.org/
Jerry Silfwer aka Doctor Spin is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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