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There are few better feelings as a PR professional than getting interest from your dream publication on a big initiative. I remember the first time I heard back from Wall Street Journal and the journalist was interested in chatting with my client to hear more about the story angle. I also may or may not have also shed a tear on that day.

Media relations can be somewhat of an art form and it’s all too easy to consider pitching media just another box to check off your to-do when you’ve got a million other things going on. First things first, just slow down and take a breath. You’ll have much more success and spend less time if your approach is more informed and purposeful. When pitching media, I always try to live by these few rules:

Avoid the spray and pray paradigm

Sure, it’s easy to copy and paste contacts from a database or previous media list, send your news out to as many people as possible and hope for the best. But if you take a shotgun approach, more likely than not, your emails aren’t even being opened if the reporter doesn’t have an established relationship with you. Researching the right contacts for your story is the foundation to any outreach and knowing what makes your reporters tick will pay off in the long run.

Media can also be somewhat of a moving target and reporters are constantly changing beats, publications or focus. It’s important you cultivate relationships long term but also keep a close eye on movement as reporters evolve and advance their careers. This is critical, not only for your client but also your own personal brand as a PR professional. When trying to build relationships, one of the worst things you can do is send a pitch to someone who doesn’t even cover your target beat.

Have something unique and interesting to say

As PR professionals, we hear it all the time but it bears repeating: reporters receive hundreds of pitches every day. It is important that your pitch (starting with your subject line) stands out from the daily slew of storyline suggestions. Before you hit send on a pitch or pick up the phone, take the time to really understand the story. Does it pass the litmus test for newsworthiness? If not, work with your team or your client to refine the message. If you’re pitching out a story that doesn’t excite you, it’s likely no one will want to cover it either.

This is also where industry expertise really comes in handy. Use your knowledge of the field to shape the story and develop a compelling angle that tells readers something new, controversial or even counter intuitive. Media love to get the scoop, so offering them resources or insider information will get you and your client far.

Remember that you’re talking to another person

I’ve always been told to customize your pitch but I’d argue that it’s more important to be authentic in your approach. “I noticed you wrote a piece about XX, would you be interested in YY” just isn’t going to cut it. If this is your first interaction with a journalist, err on the side of caution and go with a more formal tone but don’t be afraid to let your voice come through in your pitch.

I personally don’t like receiving emails that feel like they’ve been sent to a huge list of people, so I try to remember that when I send emails out as well. Would I want to receive this? And if I did, would I want to respond to it? Make sure both your subject line and your pitch are clear, concise and compelling, but more importantly make sure its personable. It’ll resonate much more if you recognize that you’re trying to connect with a fellow human being.

All in all, I always try to send out a pitch that I would actually read. Keep it original, keep it real and conversational, and get smarter about your approach in pitching media. While the preparation may take longer, the reward will be well worth the effort.

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