And here comes the pitch

It is often said that baseball is a game of failure. After all, even the best hitters fail 70 percent of the time. 

Or as the legend Ted Williams said, “Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”

Media relations is like baseball. It, too, is a game of failure. Singles and doubles – a quote in the local newspaper or a quick interview on the local news – take a lot of effort. Grand slams – an opinion in The New York Times or feature in The Washington Post – are as rare as a Tony Gwynn strikeout (for the non-baseball fans out there, that’s rare).

There are various reasons for our failure: an overwhelmed reporter; a so-so story idea; poor timing; and even laziness.

It’s that last one we have to improve upon, especially when we’re competing against a pandemic, a social change movement, an election year and the news of the day. Here are a few things to consider:

Do your homework

In this day and age, there’s really no excuse for not taking the time to study who you’re pitching. Just this week, I saw an economy reporter from The New York Times tweet about receiving a pitch about cheating and relationships during the pandemic. Last month, it was a naval warfare reporter I follow highlighting an errant pitch about must-haves for your man cave. Cision and Meltwater media databases aren’t perfect but are a great start. Supplement by checking Google, Twitter or LinkedIn before you hit send.

Be creative

Did you know that sports reporters at papers and TV stations have been contributing general assignment pieces during the pandemic? Our team has had some success throwing ideas their way, knowing that without consistent sports to cover, they are looking for ideas. Ask a good contact at an outlet to help find the right person for your pitch. One big hit for us on Fox News during Hurricane Dorian came as a result of simply asking a politics reporter for an assist. Another on CNN was fueled by a producer offering to share our pitch with other producers. 

Get personal

We’re all going a little crazy working from home. So are a lot of reporters and editors. Open up a little about what you’re going through, and be sensitive to what they may be going through. I’ve shared more than a few times that I’m an awful teacher for my kids, which has led to some funny exchanges with contacts. I’ve also been a little more open about asking reporters to hop on the phone to discuss an idea. Some, whether they like the idea or not, seem to crave the outside contact as much as me.

Be brief

Albeit guilty sometimes, I’m seldom a fan of long pitches. Especially now. Be short. Tease a little more. Ask if they’d be interested in hearing more before going into full-pitch mode. Time is short when your kids are banging on your door during a Zoom call. Now imagine a reporter or editor getting 300 pitches a day, and like you, trying to ward off the kids banging on their door while they are on deadline. 

Media relations can be a slog. Even the best of the best hear crickets after sending the perfect pitch. But we owe it to ourselves – and our clients – to at least give our best effort. 

After all, it’s not like we’re up against a 95-mph fastball.

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Sean Ryan

A former print journalist, Sean joined The Hodges Partnership in 2003 and leads Hodges’ media relations team. He manages media relations strategy and helps place client subject matter experts on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and more. Sean regularly helps place op-eds in top-tier papers like the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today.

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