A major job responsibility for us fellow flacks, and one that has one of the biggest learning curves, is pitching the media via email. Convincing reporters that he or she should take time out of their insanely busy schedules to pen an article about our company, amidst the hundreds of other companies the reporter is being asked to do the same for daily. This is no easy task, and as most forms of communications do, takes years to master.
There are some very important basics to pitching journalists and bloggers, many of them commonsensical:
Research Your Audience
Your pitch should be highly targeted and relevant to each individual reporter you send it to. Spam is one of the quickest relationship killers. One of the most important pieces of wisdom a fellow PR practitioner and buddy of mine told me some years ago is, “You’re only as good as your media list.” Your pitching efforts are futile if you haven’t spent the necessary amount of time researching and preparing your media list targets.
Tailor Your Pitch
Craft each pitch you send with the specific recipient in mind. Prove your desire to be helpful to them through referencing past stories or areas of interest they have. This will keep you from coming across as entirely self-serving in your attempts to get coverage.
Your reader is very likely to to press “delete” after the first drawn out sentence. As Mark Twain said, choose the right word and not “it’s second cousin.” As I’ve said in previous posts, superfluity kills. Journalists are not looking to discover new writing talent; they are looking for stories that will be interesting and helpful for their readers.
Treat your pitch the same as you would a conversation in real life. Would you feel comfortable saying what you write in your pitch in person? Does it reflect you and the company you work for in a positive light? Is it considerate of the other party in the relationship and their needs?
Now, here are some lesser discussed, but equally important tips, that will help your pitches get read instead of deleted. Consider these tips from PR 201:
Don’t be Predictable
Reporters are a very intelligent bunch. They are analytical, insightful, thorough creatures who are adept at detecting bullshit. Rest assured that the reporter you are targeting has seen your pitch before. Maybe the company is different and the product has some slight variations, but you can believe they’ve receive dozens of similar pitches from hopeful PR Pros. There is nothing new under the sun. The way we separate ourselves from the masses is highlighting our nuances and differences. Find unique angles the reporter may not have considered before. If he or she hasn’t thought of something you can bet it would be new and interesting for their readers to hear about – which means YOU’RE IN.
Subject Lines Rule
Like any form of copy – headlines are arguably the most important part of your writing. They are the key to opening the door and persuading your reader to read on. For emails – your subject line is often what a reporter will go on in determining whether or not to click “delete” or “open”. And believe me, this decision is made in a few short seconds. Make your subject line intriguing, specific and concise. If you work for a well-known company you have the luxury of name dropping in your subject line and your chances of getting your email at least opened increase automatically. If this isn’t the case, then the subject line rule is even more important. Send out a couple of pitches, if you’re not getting responses in a reasonable time, tweak the headline and try again. This is a learning process; a lot of it is trial and error.
End the Pitch Gloriously
Often times, we are prone to trailing off in our witting. We hit the reader with a furious one-two combo of information and persuasion in the opening sentences and think that we’ve done or jobs. That’s not the case. As the great ATL rap group, Outkast, so elegantly said “You’re only funky as your last cut.” The last sentence of your pitch should be as strong as the first couple. This is will strengthen the chances of the reporter following up to learn more. Try hard to keep them locked in to each sentence.
Your job as a PR Pro is to build symbiotic relationships with members of the media and influencers. These relationships will generate publicity and help you manage your company’s messages publicly. Like any real-world relationship, the relationship between the PR Pro and the reporter/blogger/influencer needs fostering in order to thrive. You may not get a prominent story above the fold off of your first pitch but you very well may have set the groundwork for a relationship that will grow overtime if cared for properly. Keep feeding it and don’t smother it.
Pitching is one of those things that really takes a lot of time to master. I treat each pitch as learning experience. Each word is part of a strategy to not only get coverage or raise visibility, but to nurture a long-term relationship. What are some pitching tips or tricks that help you?