How to Write an Effective Pitch Letter to a Reporter
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Reporters respond favorably to cover letters sent with press releases, especially when the letter relates to their needs. Sending a cover letter, also called a pitch letter, can increase the chances of a product review. The next few pages will teach you the art of writing effective pitch letters.
A pitch letter is a one-page correspondence that accompanies your press release or press kit. Its purpose is to capture the reporters’ interest, and motivate them to write about your product. You can be creative, witty, entertaining and imaginative (just avoid going overboard).
Pitch letters should keep the reporter’s interests in mind. Freelancer Nat Satkowski said he reads every pitch letter. Only when the letter addresses the needs of his audience does he read the press release. The message is clear: know the interests of your reporters’ audiences then write a pitch letter that tells them how your product meets those needs. This gives them usable material for a story.
Peggy Watt, Executive Editor of DBMS Magazine and former Software Editor of InfoWorld (both leading trade publications), shared a few pitch letters that went awry. Here are a few recurring themes that don’t work and why:
• “Write about my product or I’ll lose my job.”
Reporters don’t care about your job or that you just got out of school. They care about keeping their jobs by helping their readers. If you want to get publicity and “help reporters keep their jobs,” offer them news, features and other story ideas that are in line with what they write.
• “Write about my product or I won’t advertise.”
Most major publications keep a distinct separation between the advertising and editorial departments. Editorial integrity cannot be compromised by advertising influence. By offering a bribe, such as your advertising dollars, you virtually ensure that reporters will not write about your product.
Four pitch letters follow that get the basic (and necessary) information across in a factual, informative and friendly manner. These examples illustrate the three primary goals of an effective pitch letter:
• Gain their attention
• Give them the essential facts.
• Call them to action.