How to Pitch a Story to Life Science Journalists: Lessons from Michael Smart

Something amazing just happened.

Whether it’s a landmark study using your technology, a product launch, or a unique perspective from one of your experts, you need to make sure that the world hears your news.

And to do that, you need to know how to pitch a story.

Earned media placements in high-profile outlets is one of the best ways to get your message in front of your audience, but securing those placements requires high-quality pitches. As any science reporter knows, the majority of pitches are generic, low-quality, and uninteresting—not much better than spam.

Still, pitching to journalists is a cornerstone of life sciences public relations. We invested in a pitching workshop from PR expert Michael Smart to bring you the most recent information on how to pitch a story. Here’s how to pitch to a science editor, journalist, or publication.

Create tailored pitches

Tailored pitching to science journalists doesn’t just mean filling in a name with a “|FNAME|” tag (or manually). It also isn’t enough to go through the reporter’s Twitter feed and say that you “loved” their most recent story.

Those tricks are played out. They are no longer enough to stand out from the pack.

Instead, get specific and sincere. If you comment on a reporter’s work, give a specific reason why you enjoyed it. Can you mention the reporter’s favorite baseball team? If you have that level of detail, your pitch is in a good spot.

Also, don’t be afraid to speak casually. Your pitch doesn’t have to be in excessively corporate or technical language. Top PR pros have used casual approaches to get attention from Tier 1 reporters.

Be brief

You would think this goes without saying but, well, it doesn’t. Too many pitches are lengthy affairs. If a reporter opens an email to find a wall of text, they’re going to hit delete. An email pitch to media outlets needs to be brief.

Even if you aren’t slapping them with block paragraphs, you can probably be more concise.

Drop introductions like “I hope you’re well” or “My name is ABC and I work at XYZ.” Reporters don’t have a ton of time to sift through email. They can get your company info from your email signature, so make their job as easy as possible.

Similarly, forget about lengthy introductions for researchers and journals. Unless you’re pitching news from a prestigious journal or Nobel Prize winner, including these details clutters your pitch and makes it harder to find the meat of the information.

Pick up the phone effectively

You should be picking up the phone after submitting an email pitch. Remember: science journalists are busy, and it’s easy for your email to slip through the cracks.

If you don’t get an answer to your first phone call, don’t leave a voicemail right away. Instead, wait 45 minutes to an hour and call back. Only once you’ve called multiple times with no answer should you leave a voicemail.

In that voicemail, let them know that you sent them an email—and tell them the subject line. That way they can simply respond to your email if they are interested. This saves them the trouble of making an additional phone call.

If you do get an answer, make sure you have a two-way conversation. Start off the call by making clear who you are calling on behalf of, asking if this is a good time for them, and delivering a succinct pitch.

Find the story

Sometimes it’s difficult to pitch stories that aren’t especially groundbreaking. For that reason, you need to figure out how to pitch a story in the most compelling way possible, even if a good angle isn’t apparent right away.

One method is to tie your pitch to a relevant trend or holiday. If there is a conference or event coming up, can you make your story relevant by tying it to that?

If there are no trends easily available, create one. If your company is celebrating the 20th year of a particular technology, can you position that as a story about the pace of development in technologies in their space? What about a story focusing on biotech mergers and acquisitions that highlights how contributions from a variety of start-ups improve technologies and treatments? Some creativity can go a long way.

Remember: it never hurts to ask. If your company is trying to promote “boring” news, ask to present it with an interesting spin. The worst they can say is no; at best you can land a high-profile media placement.

What’s your most creative technique for pitching a story? We’d love to hear about how you connect with science reporters. Just drop us a note.