If a journalist rejects your pitch – is it worth another go?

Did you get a big fat no from a journalist when you pitched a story? If so, don’t take it personally.

There are loads of reasons why a journalist might not be interested – which are not necessarily because you haven’t done a good job of pitching it.

And many of them aren’t a “hard no”, because it’s just a bad story, as one of the trainees on the pitching course we ran this week at the Henshall Centre, said. They are a “soft no”, which means it may be worth trying again at a different time or in a different way.

Some “soft no” reasons – and how to get round them:

  1. They have covered the same topic very recently – so wait a few weeks and have another go.
  2. There is a major story which is dominating the news – again, wait until the dust has settled.
  3. It has no peg/hook or the timing is wrong – create a compelling reason why the story needs to run at a particular time, linking it to current events.
  4. They are too busy to talk to you – establish when the journalist’s busy times are and avoid these when you call.
  5. You’ve missed their deadline – find out what their lead times and deadlines are and make sure you meet them.
  6. The story as you described it is too complicated – find a simpler way to describe it.
  7. This edition of publication is full – then pitch it again for the next one.
  8. It is not their area of expertise – either ask who the right contact is, or try a different publication.
  9. You haven’t given them a good “top-line” – think again about what the most interesting angle is about this story, or the one which would work best for that particular publication.
  10. The angle doesn’t work for them – study their publication and find another angle which would.
  11. The press release isn’t well written – rewrite it!
  12. If you’re pitching for TV/video, there’s nothing to see – if this is the case, work out what pictures you might be able to offer them

Reasons for a “hard no”

  1. It’s boring.
  2. It’s the wrong story for their publication.
  3. It’s very obviously a puff piece.
  4. The journalist is a cynical hack.
  5. The journalist knows they’ll never be able to sell the story to their news editor (who is a cynical hack).

If the rejections are down to “hard nos”, then you need to rethink your strategy, work out the best types of story for your target audience and come up with ideas that will work for them. If the rejections are “soft nos”, then it is worth your while thinking again, and having another go.


Ann Wright teaches our Improve Your Media Pitches workshop. Join her to practice pitching with a professional.