Tell, Don’t Sell. Storytelling & Pitching Media 101

Jessica Payne

PAN holds regular peer-to-peer training sessions as part of a knowledge-sharing program we call PANU. The program has been around for years and always has a strong turnout. Staff at PAN are hungry to learn and to share their own best practices. It’s one of the things that makes us smarter as a firm. This week, PAN account managers Adam Novak and Michael O’Connell hosted a powerful session on pitching fundamentals. While social media is my world these days, I started off in the trenches doing media relations for years – it’s where I cut my teeth – and I regularly apply principles learned then, today. Thanks to technology and social media, the mechanics of pitching have may have changed somewhat, but the fundamentals are still the same:


  • Know your journalist and their deadlines and respect them
  • Always add value when pitching a journalist; whether it’s data, access to executives or breaking news
  • Be authentic and respectful
  • Look to develop relationships versus one-off asks
  • Above all, we’re storytellers
  • Timing is everything

Thanks to social media, we have more tools at our disposal than ever. Journalists have daily blogs to fill, social media profiles they are keen to keep stocked with a churn of content that not only promotes their content but helps them promote their own brand. Social media can also help us understand what our journalists are interested in, when they’re available and even what trade shows they are at. All of this is “valuable intel,” says Adam Novak, that we can use to help sharpen our pitching and reach journalists when they prefer to be reached and ultimately secure opportunities for our clients.

So what are the latest best practices for A-game pitching? Check out words of advice from Adam, Michael and our very own PAN staff who are in the trenches every single day:

  • “You’re not selling anything. You’re trying to be a valuable resource and tell a story.” – Adam Novak, Account Manager 
  • “Look at the CEO. Look at his past. Maybe he or she has done something completely different, and compare the two environments.” – Michael O’Connell, Account Manager
  • “Sometimes regional dailies (newspapers) don’t have the staff to write about breaking news even if they’re interested. It’s just more work.” – Kyle Tildsley, Senior Associate 
  • “Social media is helpful for pitching media and trade shows. When pitching Mobile World Congress, I checked tweets to see who was going.” – Ariel Burch, Senior Associate
  • “In today’s noisy environment where everybody is vying for attention, you really have to reverse-engineer the pitch process so that it suits the needs of the reporter first, rather than immediate needs of your client.” – Noah Brown, Senior Associate
  • “Journalists are looking to build their own personal brands on social.” If you’re going to call someone, check what they’re doing on social. Follow them on Twitter before you call. Show them that you care.” – Adam Novak, Account Manager
  • “When pitching media and deciding between email and phone, change it up.” – Michael O’Connell, Account Manager

Media Relations is just one of the many core offerings at PAN Communications. Visit the website for fresh content, to meet the team and more information. Do you have questions about the changing media landscape? Leave a comment below or tweet @PANcomm.


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