What’s the difference between a pitch and a press release?
When I speak to business owners who are looking to get publicity for their business they usually start by asking about press releases.
And that is the case whether it’s a pet business or any kind of business.
Over the last few months I’ve worked with an accountant, engineering firm, artist and pilates instructor and each of them asked about press releases.
But in many cases you don’t need to write a press release. Often all you need is a pitch which can be written in just a few minutes.
In this episode I’m going to talk about the difference between the two and you can listen in on the player link below or carry on reading as a blog post.
Ways to get coverage without a pitch or press release
You can get press coverage without having to write a pitch or a press release saving you a ton of work.
The easiest way to find media opportunities is by going to the places where journalists hang out and commenting and responding to requests in Facebook groups.
Two groups I’ve mentioned before are Feature Me, run by Jill Foster and Sadie Nicholas, and Lightbulb, run by Charlotte Fall.
Each day, journalists go in there and ask for people to come forward to help them with stories, from case studies to experts.
The other easy way to get press coverage without a press release or pitch is by answering #journorequest on Twitter.
Similar to the Facebook groups, this is where journalists go to find case studies and experts for stories they’re working on.
You’ll also see requests for gift guides and product round ups, and there’s a blog post on Twitter that you can read here.
Twitter and Facebook groups are so useful in generating media coverage that I now have two modules covering this in the membership.
They’ve led to more than a hundred pieces of publicity for the people who have been through the Publicity for Pet Businesses programme.
What is a pitch?
A pitch is an outline of your story containing the key information the journalist needs so they can make a decision as to whether it’s of interest to their readers.
When you’re writing a pitch as a business owner it’s vital to think like a journalist, so your pitch needs to be presented as a story.
Remember, while local papers like to champion people from their area doing well, they aren’t there waiting to promote your business.
You have to give them something that’s going to entertain their readers.
Writing your pitch
First, make sure your e mail title is interesting and will pique the journalist’s attention – it’s likely they will get more than a hundred messages a day.
Try to tell the story in one sentence.
Write ‘PITCH’ or ‘STORY’ then your title.
Here is an example of a story I worked on last year for Becky Baker from K9Nation when she went on a two month road trip to find the most dog friendly place in the UK.
The e mail title was: Dog owner’s road trip to find the UK’s most dog friendly place.
It tells the entire story in one sentence.
One in four people in the UK have a dog, so it would be of interest to a large proportion of readers.
It’s a fun story about a dog owner and her adventure.
In the pitch was the following information – who, when, where, why, what and how?
Who? Becky Baker, a dog lover and owner of Buddy the Cockapoo.
What? Becky and Buddy going on a two month tour of the UK, covering 2500 miles in a camper van.
Why? Becky wanted to find the UK’s most dog friendly place and she’d been inspired to go on the tour after the sad loss of a work colleague.
When? The pair were going on their tour over the summer – peak dog festival time – obviously this was before lockdown!
Where? Because Becky was visiting so many places in the UK, she was able to send her pitch and press release to the different towns and many covered her trip.
How? Becky took a sabbatical from her job in IT to go on her tour and bought a camper van to live in while on the road.
What else should you include in your pitch?
Always put a photo in with your pitch. Journalists and editors like to see the person involved in the story.
Plus, if you’re got a cute pet involved this is always a bonus.
At the bottom of your pitch you can add in an ‘About’ section, with a short paragraph explaining who you are and what you do, and relevant website or social media links.
Finally, always include your phone number.
What is a press release?
A press release is a document you send to the media sharing something that is newsworthy enough for them to cover the story.
This is the definition of Press Release in the Oxford Dictionary of Journalism.
“Information sent out to the media on behalf of an organisation to publicise an announcement, event, policy, campaign, or anything for which they hope to attract coverage.”
Online you’ll find lots of other definitions like this on the Shopify website: “A press release is a written document prepared for the media – also called the press – that announces something newsworthy.”
But the key thing to be mindful of is your press release needs to be a story.
Here are some ideas of what makes a story.
Something new, a charity or fundraising event, awards and achievements, a lightbulb moment, a news story or an inspiring animal story.
How do you write a press release?
I’ve done an entire podcast episode on how to write a press release where I break it down in more detail and you can listen in or read as a blog post here.
There’s also a FREE press release template that you are welcome to download here.
This comes with e mails explaining how to write it and other information you might find helpful, such as how to find the right journalist to contact.
With your press release you need the following:
An eye catching e mail subject header as with your pitch. You can put ‘News Release’ or ‘Press Release’ in front of the title if you like.
A title or headline – as with your e mail subject header, this needs to grab the journalist’s attention and make them want to read on.
An intro – this should tell the story in one sentence.
Quotes from the person or organisation in the story. Make these interesting and lively, and use language the man/woman on the street can understand.
For example, if you’re writing about dog training, use simple terms. If you’re talking about barking dogs, describe them as that, rather than reactive.
Keep it simple.
Consider what information the reader needs to know.
If the press release is about a seminar on how to support your barking dog which trainer Claire Lawrence is planning later this year, explain when and where it’s taking place.
Claire would also include where people can find out more about the support she provides, so would include her website and perhaps mention her books.
The difference between a pitch and a press release is that with a pitch, you’re highlighting what the story is about.
The journalist may do the work for you in writing the story if they like your pitch. Quite often, they will send questions for you to answer.
They may also come back and ask you for a press release, in which case you would put one together yourself.
With a press release, you’re putting the work in ahead of approaching a journalist and these are often handy to have if you have a launch or campaign.
With Claire’s tour for example, it’s easy to put together the press release so the journalist has all the key information in one place.
The key takeaway is that you don’t always need a press release. Sometimes a pitch or quick e mail response can work just as well.
Finally, if you write a press release and it isn’t used, remember you can always repurpose it for your own website, e mails, newsletter and social media content.
Links mentioned in this episode
September PR Challenge – this is FREE challenge to help you get press coverage and you can sign up here: PR taster
Hi, I’m Rachel, a freelance journalist and PR and content consultant and crazy dog lady!
I’ve written so many stories about animals and pet brands that I wrote a book on how pet entrepreneurs can do their own PR.
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