Being able to write a strong pitch is one of the most important skills you can have in public relations. A good pitch – the kind that yields results – takes time, research, strategy and intention. That’s why whether you’ve been doing PR for 20 minutes or 20 years, you’re constantly honing your pitching skills and experimenting with different approaches.

The way PR pros and journalists interact has changed over the years (remember the fax machine?), but what makes an effective media pitch still comes down to these five things:

  1. Understanding what you are pitching and who you are reaching out to

Before you start typing, the most important aspect of a good media pitch is understanding what your goals are and then taking the time to research and find the right journalists to reach out to. Just because a contact has covered your client in the past doesn’t necessarily make them a fit in the present. Journalists change roles and beats all the time. Additionally, your media list will change from one announcement to the next; your media list for a funding announcement will have completely different names on it than a media list for a product story, and so on. Refreshing your list often and beginning every campaign with intention will help you avoid pitching the wrong journalists and sinking your chances at coverage.

  1. Developing a strong subject line

Oh, the pursuit of the perfect subject line. It’s elusive because there’s no such thing as a “perfect” subject line. What catches one journalist’s eye may get ignored by another. That said, all journalists share one thing in common: they’re strapped for time. That’s why your subject line should be short, straight to the point, and leave the journalist wanting to read more. The goal isn’t to wow them with your creativity, but to entice them to open your email to read more.

  1. Acknowledging why you are pitching this person

The best pitches as the ones that are tailored to the journalist you’re emailing. Sure, you may be sharing the same announcement with eight different writers, but each of those emails should be personalized in a short and succinct way. This shows you’ve done your research and demonstrates why you felt they were a fit for this particular story. If possible, link to prior stories they’ve written or connections to their interest in the topic. Once they see how this story fits into their beat, they’ll be more likely to consider the opportunity.

  1. Explaining the story and how you can help them

We all fall prey to wanting to cram as much detail into pitches as possible, but the most effective pitches are short and straight to the point. One method I rely on is sharing a quick summary of the story idea and then adding bullet points below to supplement my idea. Then I wrap it up with ways I can support them, whether it’s providing images, coordinating an interview or seeking additional sources for their story. Depending on the journalist, it’s also worth considering being specific in what you’d like from them. This might include suggesting posting a press release or an interview in a podcast they host. Time and time again I find I get a better response and journalists appreciate when I am open about expectations.

  1. Following up right away 

Journalists receive hundreds of emails a day, which is why following up is key. But just like pitching, you should only follow up if you know your pitch is a slam dunk fit for what they cover. Why is this so important? It begins to either establish your credibility to them as a resource, or breaks their trust and increases the likelihood they’ll ignore emails from you in the future. Be thoughtful and strategic with your follow up, and think of ways to add to the conversation in a meaningful way when you do.

There is no one size fits all for a good media pitch. Take your time and experiment, but remember: at its core, almost every great pitch will utilize these five things.