Pitch Perfect: A practical guide to successful property PR

Property features are a core part of the British media, and getting a story in the national press can reap dramatic rewards for high-end property brands – but pitching is a fickle art...
The New York Times' newsroom in 1942
The New York Times' newsroom in 1942

Property features are a core part of the British media, and getting a story in the national press can reap dramatic rewards for high-end property brands – but pitching is a fickle art that can be frustrating for both publicist and journalist.

Here’s Stuart Penney – who spent five years as the Telegraph’s Property Editor – with an eight-point plan to successfully pitching a property story to the press.

The New York Times' newsroom in 1942

The New York Times’ newsroom in 1942

Competition is fierce in the world of property PR. More than 50 releases would land in my inbox on a slow news day. On a busy day, that number was nearer 100. And a new week would bring a new round of phone calls, while a pile of property brochures, almost the size of the Shard, would teeter beside my desk.

Every phone call, email and brochure was important to me. Sure it was my job, but more importantly, I was in search of that perfect story for readers. The sweet spot.

As the Telegraph’s Property Editor for five years, there was no shortage of ideas. But many of those ideas did not hit the mark. My finger would hover over the delete button on more occasions than I can remember. Press releases would peacefully make their way to that Room 101 in the sky.

So what makes a good story, what piques a national property desk’s interest and crucially, how do you move your PR pitch away from the delete button and into the realms of print or pixel?

Here are eight practical tips on the secrets of successful property PR. Some are common pitfalls to avoid and others take into consideration scarce marketing resources. Yet, they are all aimed at one thing: capturing an editor’s interest.

  • 1. What makes a great story? 

Is it an exclusive? Are we breaking the news? Will it capture the readers’ imagination? Does it lend itself to video? And how will the story perform online? I straddled both digital and print platforms, so stories had to appeal to both audiences. One simple question goes through my mind here: “what’s the story”? This quick thought cuts through the noise. It focusses the brain to explain the piece in one or two sentences. The same applies today, whether I am creating a digital campaign for a client, writing content or curating a website. The strongest story always wins.

  • 2. Timing is everything 

When should you approach the media? Some journalists start at 6am in the morning for 7am conference, but most begin at 9 or 10am. Give them a chance to grab a coffee and settle in. Then start pitching. When an editor is on deadline or press day – don’t call or email. Unless it is crucial to the story. If the editor makes a mistake, then thousands, if not millions of people will see that mistake on publication.

  • 3. Me-mail 

A pitch email does not need to contain reams and reams of copy. If you can’t sum up the story in one paragraph, then it is probably not worth running. Think like an editor – put the key information up front. Create a buzz about the story and the brand.

  • 4. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines

When a journalist asks for something quickly – move mountains to make it happen. Publications have space to fill online and in print. Relationships are key when dealing with national, regional or digital journalists. If you respond quickly when asked for something, the writer will be more likely to call you next time, instead of your competitors.

  • 5. Don’t even ask!

Copy approval is extremely rare and the sound of these two words send a shudder down my spine. Experienced PR pros do not ask for copy approval, but understands that editorial is a freefall mechanic. If you want to control the message, advertising, advertorials or promotions are the way forward.

  • 6. A picture is worth a thousand words

Be creative and inventive when it comes to imagery. There are some incredibly realistic computer generated images, but there are many more CGIs that will never make the page. Don’t neglect this important element of the campaign. Find a compelling image to bring the story to life.

  • 7. Eureka

Talented editors or journalists constantly come up with strong story ideas. But PR pros will provide great ideas, too. Brainstorm ideas in the office – or even better – away from the office. That eureka moment is waiting to escape. Successful PR people will provide a constant flow of suggestions tailored to the publication or writer.

  • 8. Stunts

It is a fact of life that some brands are more newsworthy than others. As a result, those companies come up with stunts to generate coverage, but the more adventurous will embrace content marketing or a more creative advertising campaigns.

In the sales world, there is an old adage: “You are only as good as your last sale”. In journalism: “You are only as good as your last story”. So find stories that will please the eye, the imagination, the editor and above all the reader.

Stuart Penney is the founder of Moneypenney Digital (www.moneypenneydigital.com), a digital and content consultancy, offering executive coaching, workshops and advice on digital plus PR strategy.

- Features -- Opinion -HeadlinesMarketing
Browse by location
The Autumn Journal
Media Partner


PrimeResi Cookies Policy

Our website uses cookies to improve your experience. By continuing to use this site, you are essentially agreeing to this. Please visit our Terms & Conditions page for more information about cookies and how we use them.