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5 Golden Rules for Pitching to the Press

Pitching to the press must count as one of the more nerve-wracking tasks in marketing.

Trolls on your Facebook brand page? Par for the course. Disparaging comments on your blog posts? Comes with the territory.

Having a journalist hang up on you? You’ll be smarting from the rejection for days.

As someone who’s been both journalist and marketer, I totally get why the media are not fond of pitches.

Their inboxes are flooded daily with suggestions on what they should cover. Ninety-eight per cent are crap; only two per cent are worth following up. And important emails, like those from sources they’re chasing or the editors they report to, are buried in the deluge.

But pitch you must, as Yoda would probably say, for the following reasons:

  • You stand a better chance of getting noticed than in issuing a press release, which journalists tend to ignore. The only releases that are pounced on are from Amazon or Apple or one of the big guys, in which case a press release is major news.
  • Media coverage is still one of the best ways to get your company or brand on the public radar
  • On the SEO front, a do-follow link from media outlets with a respectable domain authority goes a long way in elevating your search rankings

There’s no one formula in pitching, and there are scores of articles about how to do it. As someone who’s pitched successfully to outlets like Adweek and the Dallas Morning News, I’ve never strayed from my own approach below.

Alicia Kan’s 5 Golden Rules in Pitching to the Press

If it’s not newsworthy, don’t even try

Be brutally honest about what you’re trying to pitch.

Is the story interesting? Will the topic touch, amuse, terrify or inspire? Will readers or viewers save the link from a potential story and share it? Is it even relevant right now?

If you can’t answer an impassioned ‘yes’ to all the above, then forget about it. Save your energy for stories that are worth it.

Fact: A growing number of journalists these days are compensated on the basis of clicks or a combination of wages and clicks. It’s in their interest to write stories that will get them paid.

Don’t wade in without doing your homework

Have you read up on the journalist you plan to approach? Do you know what he or she covers? What he or she writes or produces?

Use the platforms available to you to familiarize yourself with the journalist’s work. Pick out stories that resonated with you professionally or personally. Find out how the story you want to pitch offers a new angle, yields additional insight or continues a current thread of thought.

Your story should be a natural segue, not an incursion.

Pen the best email of your life

Drivel, whether creating it and reading it, is a waste of everyone’s time.

You’re a marketer, right? You should know what subject lines and copy get your customers to open and click through. Use those skills to write an email that will captivate and excite your reader.

Get to the point in the first three lines. Keep your note to one screen (mobile); no hemming or hawing. Link to other sources, not just yours to back up your statements.

The challenge is to make the email all about your recipient. Replace all ‘I’s’ with you’s. ‘I thought I’d reach out to you’ invites an instant delete. No one gives a fig about what you thought.

Boiler plates are allowed to a certain extent. You’ll need to customize that email with all the research you gathered in the previous rule.

And please, no attachments.

Don’t follow up

I can hear a crescendo of wails right now. ‘But how will I know that they got my pitch?’

Believe me, if your pitch fulfilled the previous rules, not only will they have seen it, they’d be emailing you back.

Following up is bad form. And it lands you in the junk folder, which is unfortunate for you and the company or client you represent. What could be a good resource to tap later for future stories will now be dead set against any conversations.

Don’t just be that annoying person desperate for coverage

Any journalist will tell you that the publicists they appreciated — yes, they exist — went beyond wheedling for a feature.

They offered to patch writers through to potential sources. They made introductions in the industry. They gave them the scoop when matters of importance cropped up. Heck, they recommended the best place to find a beer in a strange city.

In short, they offered value.

Do you want to be this person? It takes time. Don’t let pitching be the only time journalists hear from you. Follow them on social media. Share their stories. Email them useful information related to their work. If it makes sense, take him or her out for coffee (although be prepared for them to pay for their coffee, company rules).

Successful pitching starts well before the email is written and continues long after it has been sent. Go get ’em tiger.

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Going For Woke: How Brand Activism is the New Path to Profit

‘These creatives are trying to make their toilet paper save the world.’
So opined fellow creative Rob Baiocco of BAM Connection, who was wryly commenting in a Guardian article about marketers’ new pursuit of social justice cred.
Is endowing the most banal of products with meaning as ludicrous as one would think? In October 2017, because the subject intrigued me as a marketer, I conducted my own research using SurveyMonkey.
The findings showed that, increasingly, consumers choose brands that are aligned with their values and shed those they perceive as a mismatch.

Use This Handy Asset Checklist For Branding or Rebranding

The exciting thing about branding is starting a new identity from scratch. In the case of rebranding, it’s giving something old and tired a new lease on life.

What’s not quite as fun are the million-and-one fiddly details that go into the exercise.

Stuff like:

  • Are the design team and me talking about the same thing? Like, is a stacked logo a square logo?
  • Are we covering all the items we truly need? Are we forgetting some that are actually important or, conversely, overdoing it and thereby incurring more expense?
  • Are we all on the same page about approval circuits and building in approval time before launch?

There are many excellent and free branding brief templates to furnish your agency or designer, such as this one from FreshSparks. What’s not so common is a laundry list of all the assets that should be covered by the process. A list sets the foundation for budgeting, timing and organizing. A list grounds you.

So here’s my version that I’ve used several times, from rebranding a 44-country international firm to creating a brand new identity for a digital agency. You can download it as a Word doc as well.

It’s a rare case where all items on this list will be checked off. B2B companies would require more of the digital templates while an e-commerce outfit would need a fuller range of ad formats. Feel free to adjust as necessary.

Logo/brand mark

Tesla logo guidelines

Tesla’s brand guidelines specify the amount of clear space required around the brand mark, as well as where it should appear. For example, the logo should never be placed on a highly patterned background or photograph is

  • Landscape
  • Portrait
  • Square/stacked
  • Black and white
  • Reverse
  • Favicon

Files should be in as many formats as possible: JPG, PNG, EPS, AI. Include sizes that can be used for larger formats such as outdoor signage and as small as a favicon. The wide range of measurements will test the skill of your designer, as the brand mark has to look good at 16px (a favicon’s size) as it would wrapped around the side of a building.


Beats By Dre typography example

Beats By Dre’s typography embodies its brand: Solid and contemporary, almost masculine.

  • Serif
  • Sans serif

A normal number of fonts to start with would be two, a serif and a sans serif that complement each other. Depending on the brand’s needs, you may also want to commission a script or another distinct font for headlines.

Exercise good sense in choosing fonts. The more fanciful or rare ones require a license which can be cost-prohibitive when purchasing it for multiple users.

In addition, clients who do not have these fonts in their systems will find that any documents you sent them have defaulted to Times New Roman or Arial, not to mention the formatting has all gone off. Remember that Google Fonts are good looking and free!

Color palette

AirBnb color palette

AirBnB’s color palette has 9 shades but 6 shades is a good number to start with.

  • Dominant color 1
  • Dominant color 2
  • Accent color 1
  • Accent color 2
  • Accent color 3
  • Accent color 4

Picking brand colors must be one of the most enjoyable parts of a brand exercise. If you want to play around with colors yourself, have a go using these tools.

Digital templates

Future Prospect Powerpoint template

From cover slide to bullet styles, your PowerPoint presentation should be consistent with your brand. Future Prospect PowerPoint template by Jumsoft.

  • Letterhead
  • PowerPoint or Keynote presentation
  • PowerPoint or Keynote charts – Pie, bar, stacked bar, line, etc.
  • Infographic
  • Icons
  • One-page brochure
  • White paper
  • Invoice
  • Receipt
  • Email signature
  • House ads – Leaderboard, mobile leaderboard, wide skyscraper, large rectangle, medium rectangle, billboard

Digital templates are the workhorses of your brand asset library. In the absence of guidelines, users tend to put their own creative stamp on common documents. Nip these in the bud by providing a full spectrum of branded applications.

Social media assets

Aman Instagram account

Aman’s Instagram account is serene and luxurious, just like the resort company itself.

  • Headers – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn
  • Profile photos
  • Social ads

Normally social media assets are cobbled together internally by the marketing or social media team. If so, it never hurts to run mockups by the brand steward or designer to gauge brand cohesiveness. Future iterations can then be created with pointers in mind.


Jukebox Print cards

Print can be a surprisingly strong way to anchor your brand. Cards by Jukebox Print.

  • Business card
  • Letterhead
  • Letter envelopes
  • Window envelopes
  • Catalog or document envelopes
  • Invoice
  • Receipt
  • Note card or compliments slip
  • Presentation folder
  • Mailing label
  • Brochure

We like to think that print has gone the way of the mastodons, but marketers are discovering that in the mad rush to go digital, emptier mailboxes mean better opportunities to showcase your brand. Did you know that direct mail as a percentage of all mail went up in 2016? And never underestimate the power of the humble receipt to carry brand messaging.

Corporate signage

Slack offices Toronto

Lobby signage doesn’t have to be boring. Slack offices in Toronto, courtesy of Office Snapshots.

  • Lobby signage
  • Directional signage
  • Glass vinyl graphics
  • Exterior signage
  • Event signage

Think of signage as another canvas for your brand. How can you use that space to communicate your brand’s key attributes?

Trade show assets

Ray Ban tradeshow booth

This Ray-Ban tradeshow booth certainly turned heads at an ophthalmology conference in Milan. Photo courtesy of Trive Digest.

  • Retractable banners
  • Trade show booth
  • Table drapery

Apart from their networking benefits, conferences and trade shows are prime opportunities to build brand awareness. You may not have the budget of Ray-Ban in creating a stunning booth, but never underestimate how a well designed retractable banner can stop traffic.

Other applications

New York Post gummy bears giveaway

People are still talking about this bucket of gummy bears that the New York Post gave away during Advertising Week 2014.

  • Branded premiums
  • Branded attire
  • Vehicle wrap
  • Photography
  • Other application 1
  • Other application 2

Want to make this list yours? Download it as a Word document.

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