From SATW: 5 Ways to Make Your Pitch Standout to Editors

September 21, 2023

The tourism industry is a moving target; especially for public relations professionals representing destinations both near and far. With travel editors receiving a barrage of daily pitches from publicists around the world, securing a story with top-tier publications can be a challenge.

The Society of American Travel Writers, rebranded SATW, recently hosted a panel of travel editors at its annual conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While the fundamentals of good journalism and PR writing hasn’t changed much over the years, the art of the pitch requires thinking like a journalist when crafting story angles, deciding which editors and publications are the best fit, and making a case for why your story needs to be told and told now.

1. Back to Basics with the 5Ws

It seems so obvious, but burying the who, what, when, where and why two paragraphs into your pitch (or worse yet, omitting it altogether) is sure to land your email in most editors’ trash bins. National Geographic Associate Editor Starlight Williams stated that if she doesn’t know what you’re pitching in the first sentence or two, she won’t bother to continue reading. Next!

2. Swipe Left, Swipe Right: PR Matchmaking

When you think about it, one component of a publicist’s job is to play matchmaker. Of course, we’re not talking about facilitating a “love connection” but rather finding the right journalist at the right publication for the right story (and often at the right time). Reaching out to a writer with a story about the ease of traveling with a pet when they only cover new hotel openings is both a waste of your time and theirs.

3. All Seasons are Prime Season

The Berkshires in Western Massachusetts are beautiful in the fall. The U.S. Virgin Islands offer a great winter escape. And Israel is mesmerizing during the holidays. All these statements are true, but according to Bob Curley with Caribbean Journal publicists should be looking for storytelling opportunities year-round. While Barbados is often thought of as being too hot for summer travel, its temperatures are actually lower than some of those in the Midwest during July and August – plus it has beautiful sandy beaches that you won’t find in a landlocked state. Curly also recommends pitching the “secret season,” which takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when airfare and hotel rates tend to be lower as people travel less during this period.

4. It’s Not Just About the Where, but also the Why

According to Derrik J. Lang, lifestyle editor for Shondaland, one mistake publicists often make when pitching a story is focusing only on the “where” and not on the “why.” It’s not enough that the destination is beautiful, breathtaking, rugged or whatever adjective best describes it, editors need a reason—a why­—to even consider it as part of their editorial content. Do a deeper dive to find the story – the why. Have some ancient ruins been recently excavated? Can visitors participate in a grape stomping during the annual crush? Has an airline started a new service to the destination?  The one question you don’t want an editor asking is “where is the why” when reading your pitch.

5. Pitch Perfect

While no pitch is perfect, publicists can at least do their best to make sure that they’re providing their audience—the media—with the tools and information needed to make informed decisions about whether a pitch is newsworthy. In addition to these tips and suggestions, the editors at SATW also reminded the audience that AP-style matters, typos and grammar are unacceptable and, most importantly, don’t be that publicist who crafts a nearly perfect pitch but forgets to include their client’s name. Yes, it happens.

Want to inspire more West Coast consumers to travel to your destination? Reach out to Elizabeth Borsting to chat about how an earned media campaign can help increase arrivals.

Written by

Elizabeth Borsting

Account Manager