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Pitching the Media to Bring More Attention to Your Cause

When you pitch a story to local television, radio, or newspaper reporters, they’ll be most likely to take an interest when you can provide a personal, local angle on a national story in the news.

Reporters seek real people in the community that the viewer or reader can relate to, explains Kevin Schultze, a former television news reporter who provides media training for activists through the grassroots consulting firm Soapbox Consulting. An activist once pitched Schultze a story on the challenges people face when trying to adopt children from other countries. Her pitch was successful because she was able to set up an interview for him with a local couple that was traveling to Guatemala to adopt a baby.

Here’s a basic three-step plan for making successful story pitches:

Build your target list. When you have a story to pitch, call your local TV and radio stations or newspapers. Ask someone at the news desk for the names of reporters or editors covering topics related to your issue.

Line up sources. Be prepared to give journalists the phone numbers of people who are willing to be interviewed for the story. Indicate whether or not you can arrange photos for the reporters. "Remember that they want to interview the person who is facing the struggle, the one who the story is affecting," said Schultze.

Make your pitch. Practice delivering the pitch in 30 seconds or less. Make sure you answer the following questions about the story: "Why now?" and "Why this is news?" and "Who cares?," advised Schultze. Know the elements of a good story: Reporters (and their audiences) often are looking for drama and a battle between two sides. After making an initial contact via phone, follow up later with more background material via e-mail or fax.

Tip: You may have more luck reaching reporters in the morning (especially if you call them before their morning planning meetings) and on slow news days, such as holidays and weekends.