All You Need to Know about Pitching a Sci-Tech Journalist
Updated: Jan 14
Maker knows there are enough articles on the web explaining how to pitch to journalists. Then why am I writing another one? Because they all miss the same key points.
Let's ground our expectations. This is not an ultimate guide to every single way you can possibly land a pitch to a journalist. Instead, it is a collection of anecdotes and advice based on my own personal experiences. As I am a science and technology based writer, this article too will focus on those particular niches. However, that doesn't mean that it won't have some amount of general advice that is applicable to all genres of publication.
Do Your Research
Far too often do online guides reference this advice, without giving you any specific pointers on how to conduct said research. Make sure you're pitching the right person, they say. But how do you know who's the right person to pitch to?
Start by singling out publications. If you're a tech startup or are pitching on behalf of one, a quick web search reveals that the best outlets to pitch to include Gizmodo, Engadget, The Next Web, The Verge, Geekwire, and OneZero.
These sites make up what you might call the authorities in the niche, but depending on your story, you may not want to pitch to them at all. You see, the thing about authority websites, is that they'll only be interested in your story if it's unique enough to be like nothing they've published before, or that their competitors have published before. Most of these sites look for exclusive news, usually in the form of a major event or truly unique product, with bonus points if it has a social interest angle.
Suffice it to say that if the subject of your pitch is a new line of printers or flash drives, they will not be interested. In that case, it might pay off to look into smaller publications that run product reviews on a regular basis. If however, what you're pitching is a new project focused on providing equal education opportunities in coding to students with learning disabilities, they might just be interested.
Find The Right Journalist
Once you've narrowed down which publication you want to pitch to, it's time to look for the right reporter. Every news outlets have reporters who're assigned to a specific beat.
Gizmodo, for example, has separate editors covering reviews, science, futurism, and DIY. Under these editors work several reporters with even more specific beats. For example, the science editor might be working with reporters covering animals, the environment, space, and innovation science.
If you're a startup or digital marketing agency, you probably pitch to countless journalists on a daily basis. It is unrealistic to expect you to read up on every single article they publish. What you could do, however, is read their bios. That should help you easily point out writers who'd make the best candidates for your pitch.
Moreover, it is always a good idea to have a few go-to journalists in your niche whom you follow regularly. They should always get the first dibs on your news.
Keep Your Pitch Short and Compelling
Sending out long-winded press releases is a good way of getting your pitches promptly sent to the trash. If you want to catch a reporter's eye, make sure that your pitch is concise and to-the-point.
Instead of focusing on the company or business, try to focus on real people. When a journalist looks at your pitch, you want them to see a potential story, one with characters and a narrative. A story that talks about real people and their struggles and challenges as they attempted to do something awesome.
You want to make it easy for the reporter to see the story behind your pitch, but you don't want to do their work for them. Do not send a complete article with quotes and figures. Just give your pitch enough subject matter to make it provocative and compelling.
Make Your Ask Clear
As I said, you want to make it easy for the reporter to see the story behind your article. This also means making clear what it is you're asking them to do and how they might go about reporting your story, without sounding preachy or telling them how to do their job.
This may sound confusing, but the trick is to simply state your request clearly. Do you want the reporter to interview your client over the phone? Is the person behind the story available for an on-site conversation? Are you offering to be their expert source on a specific subject or topic? Can you provide them with images, videos, and other media relevant to the story?
Once you've made your ask, make sure you leave enough contact details for the writer to be able to get to you with ease. Your email address, telephone number, and working hours should be listed clearly in the email. This may sound obvious, but too often people forget to do this.
Wrapping It Up
When it comes to landing your first pitch, the trick is to find the right person to cover your story and send them a brief yet compelling teaser about what makes it so interesting. Once that's done, you just have to be patient. If you don't hear back from them within a week, it's okay to send a polite follow-up. Do not ever call a journalist on their personal phone number!
Did my advice help answer your questions about the pitching game? Anything I may have missed? Let me know in your comments!