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What Is A Pitch Letter?

Oct 28, 2007
Pitch letters are letters personally written to individual journalists, writers, or editors (and more recently website owners and bloggers) that pitch a specific story idea to them for coverage.

Differences Between Pitch Letters and Press Releases

Pitch letters and press releases both pitch a potential story to members of the media. However, there are a few key differences:

1. Pitch letters aren't mass-distributed like press releases. They're personally addressing individual editors or writers.

2. Pitch letters can be used in cases not newsworthy enough to warrant a press release (such as trying to solicit reviews for a book or product that's no longer brand new).

3. Pitch letters are generally shorter than press releases, because it's just a pitch saying why something should be covered, as opposed a press release which has to give more background details.

4. Pitch letters are less likely to get lost in the huge pile of press releases that some journalists receive daily.

5. Pitch letters are more tailored to the needs of certain publications, from their target audience to their editorial calendars.

6. Pitch letters can be more promotional in nature than a press release can be. For example, if a company unveils a new product and sends a review copy to a journalist, the accompanying pitch letter would detail features and specs, rather than simply promoting the news angle of it being new.

Pitch Letter Follow-Ups

In most cases, following up with a journalist or editor after sending a pitch letter is appropriate, although some journalists dislike the follow-up process. The best way to follow up about a pitch letter is through a simple phone call. The idea is to offer additional information, without turning the call into its own sales pitch. The best words to use are: "I'm wondering what you thought about my letter regarding....", not "Did you get my pitch letter?" Be brief, get to the point quickly, and move on. If the story idea is turned down, there's no need to try to pressure someone to cover it, but it's perfectly acceptable to try to find out why the story idea wasn't appealing, so the pitch letter can be re-worked before sending it to additional media outlets. Never re-send the pitch letter to a journalist that already rejected the story, even if it's re-drafted with a somewhat different angle. In addition, it is also important to proofread your letter before you send it. You do not want to lose credibility by the presence of typos and grammatical errors. Be certain to research the media outlet and contact, so that you can tailor your pitch to the needs of the publication. The best way to research the outlet is by reading previous editions and paying close attention to their particular editorial style and interests. You want to be able to appeal to the editor's tastes right away, by you tailoring your pitch accordingly. Part of the idea of the pitch is to make the editor's job easier by providing what they need for the publication.
About the Author
Jackie OŽNeal is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The Press of Atlantic City and wrote for The New York Amsterdam News among others. She is the founder of O'Neal Media Group, a small public relations firm located in Atlantic City, NJ. After several years as journalist and charity editor, she decided to transition in public relations and specializes in small business and non-profits. For more information visit http://www.squidoo.com/onealmedia
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