How to Best Work With Reporters

12 tips to help you ace your next pitch

As a professional journalist, I spend a good portion of my work week reading pitches from hopeful publicists. While some of the pitches I receive are on-target and incredibly useful, the majority, sadly, are not. And so instead of being able to work on a story or find a useful source, I waste far too much time wading through off-topic or wholly incomprehensible pitches. 

While many publicists learn key techniques during their studies or internships, there are some basics that aren’t included. The so-called soft skills that involve building and maintaining relationships instead of randomly peppering people with pitches in the hopes that one will be on target. 

Here’s the thing, really great publicists understand how to connect their clients with the right journalists. They also understand that creating an ongoing relationship with the right reporter could prove more valuable than a single PR hit. And really great publicists also connect with journalists to understand both their likes and pet peeves.

In no particular order, here are some tips on how to better work with reporters while pitching or relationship building. We’ll be adding more advice in upcoming posts as well.

1. Make your message matter.

You have a limited number of words –  and the writer you’re contacting has a limited amount of patience. While it can seem abrupt to get to the point immediately, try not to use so much flowery language and exposition, that the journalists you’re pitching stop reading mid-greeting. Be polite. Be friendly, and get to the point before they tune out.

2. Don’t make them figure out what you’re saying.

I can’t tell you how many pitches I receive that make absolutely no sense to me. Don’t assume that the journalist you’re pitching has any understanding of your client’s mission or messaging. In fact, assume that they’ve never heard of your client before. Try to offer a bit of background, or at the very least clarify what it is that you’re pitching.

3. Keep relevant information easy to find.

Oh, joy! Your pitch is on target and timely and the writer you’re pitching really wants to find out more about the company you mentioned. Only you forgot to include a link to their website and left out the CEO’s name and otherwise neglected to include the critical information that allows a reporter to do a bit of a deeper dive into your client. 

4. Personalize or individualize your pitch.

While you’re busy and likely feeling pressure from your client or boss, that shouldn’t come across in your pitch. Take the time to include the reporter’s first name and spell it correctly. There are few things that cause me to tune out immediately like an email that begins: Dear [WRITER]. 

5. Skip the hearts and flowers.

Unless you know each other well and have professed our undying friendship, don’t start with an affectionate greeting or end with anything too personal. And while you’re at it, skip the x’s and o’s on pitches to total strangers.

6. Create a fantastic subject line.

Challenge yourself to pique the interest of the journalist in question. Try to set your pitch apart from the get-go by creating a subject line that’s almost irresistible. I receive hundreds of unsolicited pitches daily, when doing a quick scan through my inbox I inevitably read the emails that sound interesting.

7. Create a relationship, not a one off.

When pitching a reporter, understand that as well researched as your pitch is, it might not be relevant. But the next one might. By creating an ongoing relationship with a writer you sometimes bypass the crowd and they might come to you first for sources or pay more attention to your pitches the next time around. 

8. Feedback is your friend.

For some reason many publicists bristle when being told their pitch is off-topic or irrelevant. If a writer is taking time to respond, it’s possible that something about your pitch did catch their interest. Pay attention to their feedback and fine-tune your next pitch.

9. Don’t underestimate freelancers.

Back in the day, publicists would prioritize pitches so staffers at print magazines were their first choice. While things have changed drastically— especially with the growth of digital journalism — some publicists still haven’t quite figured out how to work with freelancers. Depending on how many outlets the freelancer in question contributes to, you could be pitching a dozen publications instead of just one. 

10. Do your homework.

It is not a journalist’s job to educate you on who they write for and what they write about. It also is a huge turnoff to be pitched a topic they haven’t written about in years. Look up their profile on Muckrack or a similar site to have an idea of what their recent stories are about and who they’re writing for before pitching. Or check out their social media profiles to see if they’re posting recent stories which will give you a bit more intel as well. 

11. Don’t keep asking when a story will run.

Writers spend a good portion of their day, well, writing. In addition to that, they network with editors and other writers, research their stories, edit their stories, find sources, interview sources, promote their work on social media and more. If a reporter tells you that they don’t know when a story will run, trust them on it. Sending follow-up emails won’t magically make a run date appear. It will annoy them though.

12. Don’t pout if your client isn’t featured.

At the end of the day, there’s always an editorial hierarchy. A reporter might love your client’s quote and then have it edited out of the final version. Trying to make a writer feel guilty about it won’t cause them to sneak your client back in, it’ll probably make them avoid you in the future.


At Segal Communications we understand that while we work for our clients, journalists are our partners in the process. 

Up next: How to Fisher-Price Your News for Journalists

10 Items You Need Before a Successful PR Program

Whether you’re a business vet or you just signed the dotted line for your first LLC, you already know the importance of promotion. Creating buzz for your business is one of the most exciting (yet often daunting) parts of the game. It takes a keen understanding of the shifting media landscape and a watchful eye on communication trends.

For those who live by the motto “work smarter, not harder,” a go-to route is to hire a PR agency or consultant. After all, they’re the ones who can help attract your future clients and customers. While these experts can add value and build momentum at nearly any stage of your business growth, there are essential factors to consider before diving into this meaningful working relationship. To ensure that you maximize your ROI and see better results in less time, we’ve mapped out ten things to keep in mind before beginning a PR program.

Putting in the legwork before you execute a PR campaign will only help to serve in its success.

1. Determine your high-level goals

As any wise business owner knows, defining specific goals and timeframes around sales, expansion, staffing, etc., is crucial. You should ensure that your PR strategy is specifically tailored to assist in achieving those goals. Especially when you’re outsourcing, sharing your larger goals allows those experts to steer the ship in the right direction and allocate resources appropriately.

2. Define (or refine) your brand identity

This is something that a PR firm can typically assist with from a consulting standpoint. However, it’s essential to engage with branding specialists and designers to ensure your brand identity is beautifully reflected through cohesive design and messaging. With fierce competition and increasingly shortened attention spans, if your brand and image don’t project relevance, authenticity, and a clear identity, media and stakeholders will brush it aside no matter how well-crafted your pitch.

3. Evaluate your distribution

Whether offering a product or service, analyze your existing distribution and growth potential to assess the size and scope of PR required. While demand, of course, drives supply, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to over-promote (or target those top national outlets) if you know you lack the infrastructure to keep up with the resulting orders. A PR program should be designed to drive awareness and sales in a way that best serves your capacity and can be scaled up in line with your business.

4. Gather press-worthy images

While it may seem overly basic and self-explanatory, you’d be shocked to see how often companies execute PR with subpar image assets, even in 2022. These aesthetic tools not only reflect your brand identity and value but can be a ‘make it or break it’ deciding factor when a journalist determines which brand will land the coveted lead spot in an article or round-up.

5. Get social

If you had to choose between having only a website or a social media presence, quite often we’d 

recommend the latter (of course, depending on your audience). Not only does it establish a sense of relevance, but it’s perhaps the most organic method to building an audience from scratch, establishing a direct channel of communication, and driving launches and announcements in tandem with traditional media relations. It’s also the first place most potential customers check to vet a new brand.

6. Build a sharp website

Needless to say, this has got to be on point, and you’ll want consistency in style and messaging between the 

site and social channels. PR can help you land that feature story or top-tier placement, but if those calls to action lead to a lackluster website or uninspired social feed, you can kiss that potential sale goodbye.

7. Get clear about your audience

This goes back to the importance of defining your brand identity, and you should have a clear idea in your mind about the demographic and psychographic profiles of your target consumers. PR programs should be highly tailored, and the more specific the audience, the more tailored a campaign can be crafted to truly resonate. This can definitely be a conversation with a PR team to perhaps refine or expand the definition of your audience, but it’s important to have a strong existing sense from the jump.

8. Designate a spokesperson

While a PR rep handles 90% of the legwork here, most businesses should also have an internal ‘face’ of the company, who can be trained and leveraged for interview opportunities, press conferences, and other media or public-facing events. Oftentimes this will fall on the CEO, in-house communications director, or perhaps a paid industry spokesperson or celebrity. A PR agency can help determine the best option, but it’s smart to have someone who is ready and willing from the start.

A man being interviewed by three reporters in a press conference room.

9. Map out your company news

Even if timing isn’t exactly confirmed, it’s important to forecast future events and timeframes in terms of product launches, fundraising, expansion, new hires, etc. The further in advance you have an idea of these developments, the more strategic a PR program can be. Timing is everything, and your team can advise on which announcements will make the greatest impact, and when.

Timing is everything, and your PR team can advise on which announcements will make the greatest impact, and when.

10. Learn to keep an open mind

PR professionals are natural storytellers and diligent planners, which are valuable traits for the job. While they understand that your business is your baby and will do everything in their power to control the narrative, even the best-laid plans will change on a dime. There are many moving parts and uncontrollable factors when dealing with the media, and this is when critical problem-solving skills come into play. You’ll absolutely lose your mind if you don’t learn to trust the process and change direction now and again. Sometimes the new solution ends up even better than the original plan!


Ready to get started with your customized PR program? When we work together, your brand does more than show up. It shows up with a story, a purpose, a unique reason for being – and it makes an impact.

[email protected]

How to Fisher-Price Your News for Journalists

4 Sure-Fire Ways to Make Your Pitches Irresistible

Journalists receive hundreds of pitches daily from publicists eager to tell them about clients, launches, or things they deem newsy. Those pitches can run the gamut from oddly inappropriate, to blessedly on-target, to a whole lot of WTF did I just read

So, what makes a journalist take the time to read your pitch, much less decide the information is worth sharing with their readers?   For one thing, a really great pitch never leaves you guessing. From the subject line to the introduction to the description, all elements shared should fit perfectly together- which come to think of it is a lot like classic  Fisher-Price toys. 

While there’s nothing juvenile about the PR and journalist relationship, sometimes it helps to go back to the basics.

If you’re trying to make your own pitches stand out from the scrum, consider adding a bit of Fisher-Price inspiration to your approach. 

Make it easy to understand.

Fisher-Price toys may have been developed by developmental specialists and engineers, but every single colorful element seems effortless. More than that, they make sense, fit seamlessly with each other and offer a bit of fun in the process before hitting the payoff. And that offers a lot of inspiration for publicists hoping to up their own game.

Before sharing your latest pitches, check for clarity with someone who knows nothing about your product or client. Your pitch shouldn’t be like the New York Times crossword puzzle, taking endless minutes to solve, it has to naturally flow from one piece to the next. 

PR pro tips: Reread your pitch from the journalist’s point of view before hitting send. 

There is nothing worse than receiving a pitch and having no idea of what you’re being pitched. As a publicist, you may have a clear idea of what you think you’re saying, but it might not make sense to anyone outside of your agency. By making your pitch easy to understand and navigate, you increase your chances of your entire pitch being read. And while you’re at it, you probably still need to cut things down to make it clear and bite-sized. 

Don’t make the reader have to plow through endless information for a payoff. And don’t make it so confusing that they give up in the middle. Let your reader know who your client is, why this pitch is relevant or timely. 

Unlike a Fisher-Price toy, a PR pitch shouldn’t feel like a guessing game. 

Make it timely.

Part of the genius of Fisher-Price is the way every toy is geared to a specific age group. Not sure if this is the game for your tot? Read the label and you’ll immediately know if it’s a good fit.

PR pro tips: Make your pitch newsy and timely whenever possible. Just because you’re working with a new client does not mean that it’s relevant or interesting to a journalist. If you can’t find an angle that works exclusively with their beat, find one that works with current events. But since the news cycle moves so quickly, you’ll have to be prepared to hit send quickly to stay relevant.

Do the heavy lifting behind the scenes.

One of the reasons for Fisher-Price’s great success is that they track the many moving parts behind the science of fun. Sure, they create products to dovetail with a baby’s growth and development, but there’s always a deep thought process behind what seems incredibly simple. They also laser focus on who they’re targeting and why and literally build ease of use into the process.

A huge challenge for journalists is keeping editors happy by writing stories that are clickable and organically shareable. As a publicist, you can help by crafting your pitch in a way that shows you’ve not only researched the writer’s outlets or potential angles, but also the way their content is shared or consumed.  

PR pro tips:

There’s a fine line between seeming to write the article for a journalist (don’t do that) and offering bite-sized blocks of information, comparisons, or data points illustrating why your pitch matters. Remember, before you can connect with a writer’s outlet, you have to connect with them first. And in case anyone needs reminding, PR stands for public relations.

Creating and maintaining relationships with journalists is a huge part of the job, and providing consistently good leads often makes you a partner in their process.

Don’t build in too many moving parts.

Part of the genius of Fisher-Price toys is that they somehow know just how many block pieces to include before the puzzle is solved. More than that, they create experiences that override frustration for a feeling of satisfaction. 

Along those lines, if you fill a pitch with so much useless information that a journalist has to dig around to find basic facts, they’ll simply skip to the next pitch. And they might just avoid your future pitches. Always give a writer the easiest possible way to cover your news.

PR pro tips: Before you spend that extra time pasting images into a PDF, ask yourself if that’s helpful to the journalist your pitching? Instead, offer a quick clickable link with a small image and then offer a high resolution image if requested. In other words, always provide journalists with the easiest possible way for them to cover your news. Segal Communications founder Sarah Segal said she and the team “always put the text of a press release into the body of the email and never as an attachment so that reporters can easily search it and don’t have to open anything.”