How to contact journalists & reporters for news coverage

How to contact journalists & reporters for news coverage

You want to contact the media and get results without being annoying. We asked them the best way to do it.

Have you ever experienced the rush of Inbox Zero, when your mailbox is clutter-free and completely devoid of expectations, obligations and responsibilities?

Journalists don't know that feeling.

Many newspeople are inundated with tons of messages from folks who want them to run their stories. We're going to discuss how to stand out among the pack, the best way to contact journalists, and the top tips for getting coverage for your brand (without pissing the media off in the meantime).

We pulled the insight and inspiration for this article from our absolutely fantastic PR Roundtable with writer Kelsey Ogletree and journalist Holly Brockwell. Watch the full thing: How writers want to be pitched.

For the highlights and juicy nuggets of wisdom, keep reading 👇

The problem with the current pitching landscape

According to Cision's 2021 Global State of the Media, over 53% of journalists get over 50 pitches per week and the majority say that less than 25% of those pitches are actually relevant. One journalist shared how he received 95 emails (or more) per day! This sucks and makes it harder for everyone to do their jobs.

That's not to say that comms practitioners and PR don't have good intentions when pitching, but a lot of those good intentions get pushed to the side when agencies and brands push unreasonable expectations for media coverage. This often prioritizes speed and breadth over quality and depth when pitching.

According to Holly:

It's really varied, actually, there's kind of a mix of people where it's a mix of people who've done lots of research and are specifically pitching to me or to the publication. Lots of people that are just pitching to everybody, which is fine. And some people who I think you can tell, they didn't really want to email me, so thye've gone and Googled me and have gone, 'All right, well, I'm going to stick a cat picture in here and it's got nothing to do with what we're talking about but let's let's do that because that's what you like.'

Or they're pitching me because I'm female and it's like a phone aimed at women. But I do understand, obviously from having been on that side, that there's pressure from higher-ups and stuff, and it's not always people's fault if they're kind of spamming you.

Holly Brockwell

Holly's been on both sides of the media, so she has some sympathy for what PR has to go through in order to get coverage. But many journos are frankly tired of wading through irrelevant content to get to the good stuff (which is part of the reason why we don't sell media lists).

As someone who has served both as a journalist and PR professional, I've seen it all. But by far the most common mistake PR pros make is that they fail to understand what the respective journalist covers, the kinds of topics they care about, and why a particular pitch has no relevance to the individual. 

I can't tell you how many times I was pitched irrelevant content. And I can't tell you the number of times clients have asked me to pitch irrelevant content.

To be successful, it's critical to know the kinds of topics reporters care about and to make their lives easier by only pitching relevant content. You should also build a strong rapport with reporters and make clear to them that you're someone who can be trusted and won't waste their time with irrelevant or boring content.

It can be frustrating to send well-crafted pitches can take a lot of time, only to hear radio silence from the journalists. But the alternative is basically what we have now: spammy, low-quality, mass pitches that (almost) never get picked up. Unfortunately, shortcutting tactics typically tend to do more harm than good and are not a shortcut to the most important element of media relations: actually building relationships with the media.

See why PR pros pick Prezly over Cision →

How to successfully pitch the media

We have to preface this section by stating that no two media contacts are the same. Some are freelance writers, some are in-house journalists, some work for up to a dozen publications, and some work almost exclusively with one or two. Each reporter has their own workflow, deadlines, preferred pitching style, relationship with social media, etc.

We wouldn't presume to speak to each individual reporter, but these are some general best practices based on what we know of the industry and what we've gleaned from Holly and Kelsey.

Contacting reporters 101

Sometimes contacting the reporters is just not that difficult. Kelsey, for example, literally has a section on her website that says "Pitch Me" with her editorial calendar and a form to directly contact her. She's not the only one, either. Many reporters make it just that easy--if you're looking, and not simply spamming a million reporters with some purchased media list.

That being said, not every journalist makes it quite so simple to pitch them. However, you might be surprised that, with just a little digging, many reporters will have some indication of their preferred pitching method. As much as you don't want to waste your day contacting irrelevant reporters, they don't want to be bombarded either!

I have my email address right there in my bio. So that kind of bothers me when people use DMs because you can't search them by content, you can only start by name and stuff just gets lost in there.

It's really controversial. It's one of those things where some people have a really set preference and some people really don't. So I know people who don't mind being pitched on Twitter, although I would say, I think the majority of journalists I know, prefer not to. Some of them have been that bios, 'don't pitch me on Twitter.'

If your email address is there, they can just email. I don't mind if somebody wants to tweet me or DM me to follow up and say, 'I've sent you this and you know, I haven't heard back or anything.'

Holly Brockwell

This is just one of the many reasons we recommend researching the reporter before pitching because often, they will have a pinned tweet or blog post about how they prefer to be contacted. ​

Some journalists live and die by their email inboxes, and some are more social media-oriented. Some prefer a contact form on their website, while others love a LinkedIn connection. It really does depend.

However, respect across platforms is universal. We recently spoke to 200 communications professionals and asked for the worst PR pitching mistakes, and one of the top answers was being too pushy.

Pro tip: Typically, when you can't find the journalist's contact information, they aren't interested in being contacted. If you find yourself trying to play Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? with a reporter, simply don't. Being a public writer does not always mean you are open to public pitches, and many reporters have to go through Herculean lengths so as not to be flooded with well-intentioned but unsolicited pitches.

How to research the media contact

It seems like we mentioned it in every single Prezly Academy article, but it must be said again: know who you are contacting before you pitch for maximum results.

But what does it mean to "research the reporter" in this context? Of course, you can Google them. Often you'll come across their professional website or the publication they work for will have an "about the journalist" section where you can learn about their niche, who they write for, and everything you'll need to know for certain that they're a good fit. There are also a variety of journalist databases out there that aggregate data about media contacts like Muck Rack or other tools for researching the media.

Just be mindful of not doing too much research. Journalists are real people, and their entire identity isn't necessarily open for public consumption. Personalized pitches are great (until they border on the cringe and/or manipulative).

Holly speaks to this when talking about weirdly personal cold pitches:

You don't need to go deep diving into the journo's personal life to make a quality individualized pitch. There's a fine line between "I did my due diligence to know your niche" and "I know your childhood dog's favorite squeaky toy."

Practice relationship-based pitching

Kelsey takes a relationship-based approach to her relationship with PR and says that a collaborative working relationship with communications folks means everyone wins.

Relationship-based pitching means working with reporters and not assuming they work for you. It means coming up with interesting stories and angles together in pursuit of a unique angle that benefits the readers more than anything. If the readers don't care, you don't have a story.

Kelsey cautions comms people to pitch ideas, not facts:

Pitch the media after you're prepared

Do you know what every journalist around the entire world doesn't want? This email:


Why is this bad? Let us count the ways:

  1. Name misspelled
  2. No information about the pitch
  3. No information about the source
  4. Requires follow-up to even get an idea of what the pitch is about
  5. Wants to schedule a call

This seems hyperbolically tone-deaf, but ask any journalist and I can almost guarantee they've all received several hundred Steve-esque pitches, probably even this week. Nobody wants to talk on the phone, Steve!

As much as we all universally hate phone calls, an unprepared email is worse. Every good pitch should contain, at a minimum:

  • A grabby subject line with relevant keywords
  • A clear, concise, short pitch
  • A link to all the relevant images, videos, and assets (ideally in a centralized press kit)
  • Contact information

💡 For more insights into great pitching, read our guide on writing the best press release email pitch or take a look at these five real-life examples of excellent pitches that garnered high-quality coverage.

Pitch a really good idea

You have a brand. That's nice. But why is that a story? Before you even open a draft email, know what story you will tell. How is your brand changing the game? What research have you done, how will your company revitalize a community, in what way are you shaking up your community, industry, or even the whole world?

Questions to ask when turning your pitch into a story:

  • Who does this benefit?
  • Why would anyone care?
  • How are we contributing to the conversation in a fresh, unique, or meaningful way?
  • What are we doing that others aren't?

👉 We asked another rockstar storyteller how to turn brand news into a compelling story. Watch that conversation here!

When pitching, think of the end goal and write to it. Discuss how your product, brand, or event will enrich the readership in some tangible way and make it crystal clear how this isn't just a pitch, but a story.

In fact, you can (and should) even use phrases like:

"Your readership will benefit from this story because..."


"This is relevant to your audience based on..."

This will serve to reduce the friction between the information you want to get to the public and the writer's ability to get it there. Think about it: if you can't make this interesting to the reporter, there's no way that they can make it interesting to their editor.

Do you know what else reduces friction? Giving them everything they need all at once. This was mentioned in the section, but it's worth reiterating. If a journalist has everything they need to run your story or include your brand in a story they are already working on, your pitch is significantly more likely to get used than if they have to chase you down for quotes, do a bunch of back-and-forths, request images multiple times, etc.

A compelling story needs visuals, data, and quotes. Give the reporters everything they need to tell a really, really good story.

Understand that you can't pick where or when your story is published

Kelsey and Holly both agree: typically, the average journalist cannot predict when their stories will run, or even if they'll run it all. Most writers are not the editor, they don't get to determine unilaterally when and where their stories will be featured, and it is certainly not their fault if the story gets cut or pushed back.

If you want to control the narrative and timing, brand media and paid media are your friends. If you want earned media, well, much of that is out of your control.

As Kelsy mentioned in the clip above, your pitch may not be relevant now, but many journalists will keep your pitch archived and search for sources when it becomes relevant. This is another reason why clear, concise, keyword-conscious pitching and email subject lines are so important.

What NOT to do when pitching

We've discussed some great advice for what to do when pitching the media, but what should you not do?

  1. Bury the lede. Be super clear about what you're pitching and why.
  2. Attempt to manipulate the media contact into responding. This can look like using guilt trips or "why does nobody ever respond to me? 😔" follow-up tactics.
  3. Promise something you can't deliver. Saying you can get a certain asset or interview or quote and then failing to provide it after the writer has already pitched it to their publication is bad for everyone.
  4. Forget that you're a human talking to another human. Being professional doesn't mean you can't be friendly, funny, and authentic.
  5. Focus only on promoting your brand. If your story pitch sounds like a sales pitch, it needs some reworking. The media is not paid advertisement. The journalist's readership, not your brand, should be at the forefront of the pitch.
  6. Ramble on endlessly. Pitches should be short.
  7. Send the same pitch to multiple contacts within the same publication. This is one of those rookie mistakes that happens a lot. People within agencies talk, and your adorable "personalized" joke pitch becomes a lot less cute when everyone compares notes and sees they all got the same thing.


There is a lot about the media process that you can't control, but you can control how you pitch. A high-quality, well-researched pitch could land you amazing coverage. But odds are that a low-quality, lazy pitch rarely will.

For more awesome pitching goodness, why not download our free pitching pack? 👇


Thank you to Holly and Kelsey for the insightful chat! If you have an idea you'd like to see us cover, connect with us on Twitter!

Published July 2022

Join 500+ PR teams already loving Prezly

Take the stress out of contact management and distribution with a dedicated outreach CRM that your whole team can use.

Made with