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Media Pitching for Academics (how to be a source)

March 18, 2023

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If you are a scholar interested in learning about media pitching for academics, you’re in the right place!

This post covers how researchers and scholars can pitch a journalist and/or editor to be a source. The goal here is two-fold:

  1. to pitch ideas (e.g., your published research, your expertise) to targeted members of the media, and
  2. to be considered as a source for future related articles.

The pitch is usually short pitch ideas designed to intrigue the journalist to cover your work or include you as an expert source. The journalist may build a piece surrounding your pitch, or the editor may assign a journalist to build a piece surrounding your pitch. This is not an op-ed (standby for this soon). 

Building your foundation

Establishing expertise/credibility

According to Muck Rack State of Journalism 2023 report, academic experts lead as the most credible source (compared to CEO’s PR professionals, influencers, bloggers, etc.). Your work and unique intellectual perspective is valued and needed! To start, make yourself available as a source. I’ve talk about this before, but here are a few more ways you can go about establishing your expertise:

Matching with an outlet/journalist

The last thing you want to do is send a pitch that is not relevant to the journalist or editor. Do some research in advance to ensure you are reaching out to the right people and right publication. 

Be sure to reflect on what your communication goal is, who your potential audience is, and what outcome you hope to achieve once someone reads the work, This can help you narrow down your media contact list. 

As you look to build your media contacts list, consider:

  • Is the journalist/editor/publication covering your topic?
  • Has the publication/media member covered the topic previously?

News outlet websites often list journalists and editor contact information. It is very easy to find it (search for the masthead). 

You can also make yourself available to the media as a source by creating a profile on sites like Help a Reporter Out and Qwoted, where journalists connect with expert sources. Some of these sites also let you pitch your ideas to journalists. Profnet, ResponseSource, and Expert Click are other options (though a few of them charge for their services). connects podcasters with potential guests. Creating profiles on a few of these will make it easier for you to be found.

Create relationships with media 

Now that you have a better sense of who and where you want to pitch, start building a relationship with the media members. Follow their byline or beat to see what/how they cover the topic. Read their work. Keep up to date with what they are covering. Interact with them on social media by commenting on their posts, and sharing/retweeting their work or challenging the content or suggesting other POV’s (but don’t be a dick about it). You can even email them to tell them you follow their work, you are an expert in the related field, and could provide a unique perspective if they are looking for more input.

Do this way before you start pitching. Like, now.

Finding an angle

Journalists and editors are looking for STORIES. So make sure to flesh out your pitch idea in advance. The published research is not the story, how it relates to the audience is. Make it relevant for the journalist, publication, and audience. 

Is there an event, holiday, legislation, etc. coming up that you can tag on to elevate the pitch relevance?

Media Pitching for Academics 

Now the fun part… the pitch! 

Who are you pitching

Generally, you want to pitch to an editor because they have more decision making power, but some journalists are also looking for story ideas. This is where creating the public profiles can help you get discovered through the power of Google. 

Be sure to read what they’ve written or what’s been covered to get a sense of topics and point of view so you can pitch more personally. Journalists tend to reject pitches if they aren’t personalized

Along the same lines, do not blast out a canned email and bcc loads of members of the media. The more people you include on a pitch email, the lower the open rate. Personalize the communication! This is not a numbers game, it’s a relationship game. 

You’re wasting your time and theirs if you don’t personalize the pitch. 

What are you pitching

What is the hook? Why is it relevant? What is the story?

If you are looking to be a source or pitch a story idea, be sure to pitch your expertise and unique intellectual perspective. Typically, you are pitching an idea to journalists and editors, not a fully written piece. Fully written pitches are usually the route for op-eds.

Where are you pitching

This should be covered in your foundational work, but you’ll want to target your pitch also based on location and/or audience (e.g., local, regional, trade publication). Be sure to research to see if the story you are pitching was already published by the journalist/outlet.

You’ll want to pitch via email (do not include attachments). Limit the subject line to 6-8 words.

And similar to research publishing, you’ll want to pitch to one journalist/publication at a time.

When are you pitching

There is no cheat code that will help you discover when to reach out to a journalist/editor. Each media member has their own preferences. But some best practices include: 

  • Send pitches early in the morning, and not during evenings and weekends (use the Schedule Email function). The best day of the week might be Sunday afternoon or Monday.
  • Be sure to identify if the piece is time sensitive in your email (and in the email subject line). Follow up within 24-48 hours if it is timely so you are not hamstrung. 
  • If you have a long lead time, spring and early fall are best for pitching as the editorial calendars are more open.

Why are you pitching

This goes back to your angle. Why is this important for the readership? Why does the audience need to read this? How does it impact them? Why does it matter to them? You also need to be able to state why you are the best person for this. And what is different about your perspective and the topic that makes it work covering. 

How are you pitching

Do yourself and them a favor and get straight to the point of how you can help them. 91% of journalists said they preferred pitches under 200 words long. Get to the lede/hook quick. Be sure your pitch is jargon-free and limit the use of statistics. 

And if you are pitching yourself as a potential source/expert, email them, note that you’ve read their work (specifically reference their work) and that you have another perspective to add to it that could prove interesting. Include your contact information and website links for more information on your research. 

The follow up

First, don’t expect a response from the media member. Most journalists get up to 5 pitches per day while 24% of journalists receive 50-100 pitches/week! So it’s safe to assume it’s a no if you haven’t heard back within a week. They are busy folk. It is ok to follow up once, but no more than that. 

If you are successful in getting your pitch covered, share share share! Keep in contact with the media member so your cold pitches can now be warm!


Temper your expectations and timing. This journalist tracked their pitches over a few weeks and found they rejected 95% of pitches. As with anything, practice makes perfect. You may not come out of the gate landing your dream publication. So start small (e.g., local) and practical. 

Be prepared to embrace rejection, but do not become a victim to it. Treat every pitch rejection as an opportunity to adjust and send it somewhere else. Just like we do in the peer-reviewed journal game. 

Also, keep a running list of media members you contact in a spreadsheet. Their beat, publication, social media accounts, websites, last contact, what you’ve pitched, and how they responded. Don’t rely on your email inbox to keep track of this. Be proactive and organized! Each little ounce of planning saves you time in the future. 

Free Pitch Assessment!

Are you interested in submitting a pitch but would like some feedback first? Fill out the application below and submit your pitch for review!

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Alicia Cintron

Research Public Communications Trainer & Coach

hi there. here you’ll find insight, musings, and thoughts about research, public engagement, communication, and higher education. have an idea for a topic for us to cover? shoot us a note

Alicia Cintron

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