PR Training

The Key to Successful Top-Tier Media Pitching

Earlier this year I watched and listened as a national morning show producer reviewed 15 pitches out loud, one after the other, in quick succession. It was the closest that I’ll ever get to reading the mind of a top-tier influencer.

I had assembled pitches from members of my monthly coaching program for her to review. After a month of arranging and preparing for the experience, here’s my primary takeaway:

Successful top-tier media pitching is all about developing deep empathy for the individual influencer you’re targeting.

Before the program, I sorted through the pitches the members had submitted for her consideration. In a way, I was acting as a proxy for her, seeking to identify the ones that had the best chance at success, and put them in the right order. I had interviewed her twice by phone and carefully watched a couple episodes of her show so that I would know what to look for.

I have a lot of experience with media relations — I review members’ pitches every month during our review sessions, for starters. But reading these pitches — as a stand-in for her — crystallized my thinking in a way that had never happened before. It was way easier to sift and sort the winners and to spot the elements that deserved emphasis and those that needed to be cut.

By the end of the live class, I felt like I was coming close to becoming a  “Today” Show producer. Not just to share her evaluation of newsworthiness — but also to understand what it’s like to be in her position, a real person with demanding bosses and a job that’s sometimes exhilarating and other times exhausting.

My lesson learned: Don’t merely customize your pitch. Empathize your pitch.

Think of the human being you’re sending it to. Watch, listen or read their content. Wonder what their day has been like. Consider the relationship they feel with their audience — and how protective they are of that. And only then start using your keyboard as a paintbrush to create a picture in their mind of the idea that will thrill their audiences and make their lives easier.

Or you can keep copying and pasting the same pitch to multiple people and getting nowhere.


Michael Smart teaches PR professionals how to dramatically increase their positive media placements. He’s engaged regularly by organizations like General Motors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Georgia Tech to help their media relations teams reach new levels of success. Get more media pitching knowledge from Michael Smart here.

Want to dive deeper into Smart’s tips for landing more media coverage? Check out his workshop “Secrets of Media Relations Masters” or his online course “Crafting the Perfect Pitch”. 

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