Thought Leadership

Sorry Not Sorry: Cold Pitching Requires a New Attitude

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Sorry for posting this, I know you’re busy. I just wanted to reach out and hopefully offer something that might help.

Does this above sentence feel right to you? If you’ve heard me speak or read any of my other posts, you probably noticed something odd about it.  It’s true — I do know you’re busy. And I do want to help. But I’ve learned — over a long period of time and through lots of emotional growth (even occasional anguish) — that the best way I can help is to not devalue what I have to offer by quasi-begging you to read it.

Subtle words like sorry, just, hopefully, and might say that I’m not sure of myself enough to expect you to pay attention based on the value of what I’m about to give you. The most common offender of these is just, as in, I just wanted to check in or I was just hoping.

That previous paragraph was hard to write because if you go back to my original pitches, and even to the early days of me blogging about pitching, that’s exactly how I used to express myself. I was bleeding insecurity all over the page. It’s also how most PR pros write pitches and follow-up emails today. Many unknowingly do it in their regular workplace conversations as well.

1. For a cold pitch, the status quo is to start with something like this:

Just wanted to reach out, hoping you can take just a minute to see if there’s something that might interest you here.

Instead, prove your worth and get right to the point:

I know you cover workplace trends such as managing millennials. Here’s what one company has found after upgrading their IT to match digital natives’ expectations . . .

2. When following up after initial interest appears to wane, here’s a common example:

Sorry to bug you. Just wanted to check in and see if you might still be interested in this idea?

But you convey the same point with much more power when you simply write:

Checking in to see if this idea is still alive?

3. After a few follow-ups go by, you want to give yourself one last shot. So don’t water it down like this by hiding behind someone else:

I know you get bombarded with pitches like these and I don’t mean to pester you. Just want to get a feel for your interest level on this one so I can let my [boss/client/expert] know if this might still happen.

Instead, you can still show empathy and acknowledge reality, while still being clear that you believe strongly in your story idea:

I know you are juggling so many stories constantly and can’t possibly pursue all the worthy opportunities you come across. Can you let me know if this is still on your radar, or should I move on and take it elsewhere?

If those specific examples help you, then great. But really, principle is not in the granular semantics of the email; it’s about how you feel when you write it. If you feel like a reluctant pest who has nothing of value to offer, that’s usually how you’re going to come across. If you cover up that feeling by choosing more powerful words, that helps a little. The real change happens when you re-align the way you view the dynamic between you and the journalist.

When you know you have something of value that will help her do her job, that sense of intention will jump off the screen and make you stand out.

Learn more from Michael, PRSA’s national media pitching coach, at his workshop: Secrets of Media Relations Masters. This is Michael’s most popular event and could sell out, so don’t delay.

About the author

Michael Smart


  • Michael, have you hacked my email? LOL! I am definitely guilty of the apologetic pitches. Great post!

    • You’re not the first person who has responded to this topic that way 🙂 For case studies all I had to do was look at all my “sent mail” before I realized I was looking at the PR/journalist dynamic incorrectly.

  • Yeah, good piece. I try to stay clear of giving free advice to try to snag a clients ear. But the points made are good first steps at letting a potential client understand the value being offered.

  • Very helpful piece! As someone who will begin pitching soon, this was great advice on best practices of “cold pitching”. It’s great to hear from someone who already has experience with pitching and can share what they’ve learned. – Lexi McKenzie, Platform Magazine Editor/Writer

  • […] July – One of the hardest parts of PR for me is media relations—I am by nature fairly introverted, and cold pitching is no fun at all. It’s difficult for me to inject myself into a busy person’s day without reverting to squishy words and apologies when pitching. PRSA’s blog PRSay carried a post in July that felt like it was aimed directly at those like me about how to get your mind in the right space to do cold pitching. […]

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