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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.

How To Pick Colors Like A Pro

When it comes to choosing colors, people are almost always confident about what looks good on them. After all, they’ve had years to experiment with every shade possible, and know for a fact what works and what doesn’t.

The same can’t be said for picking brand colors. Not only do you not have the luxury of time to experiment, it’s very easy to get things horribly wrong. So we tend to leave color decisions to the experts, ie the agency or the graphic designer.

That said, dabbling in the parts of the color picking process is educational and fascinating, especially if you’re a person who has always been intrigued by colors, color psychology and the like. But if colors bore you, then think of the 5 tools below as simplifiers of irksome tasks, like making your Powerpoint deck look more professional.

Adobe Color Wheel

Cost: Free

Adobe Color Wheel

Think of Adobe’s Color Wheel as the digital version of hand mixing paints on a palette. Move or stretch the arm on the circle to find a shade you like. Choose the color rule — analogous, monochromatic, complementary, etc — from the menu on the left. A palette will be produced showing the right shades.

If you click on the Explore tab, you’ll find palettes that other people have produced, which you can upvote or download. If you wish to save your palette (retrievable in the My Themes tab), you’ll have to sign up for an Adobe ID.

Adobe Color palettes

Got a photo with colors that make your heart beat faster? Then you’ll love this neat feature. Click on the camera icon underneath the Sign In link on the right — if you mouse over the camera it’ll say ‘Create from Image’. Upload a photo and the program will extract the colors into a palette based on a color mood you choose. The dropdown menu on the left has five different color moods and one custom which allows you to cherry pick the shades you want from the picture.

In this example, I’ve used a screen grab of a page from Elle Decor France, an interior design magazine that always makes me want to rearrange my furniture and distress my walls. Adobe extracted the greens and chocolates and created a muted palette.

Adobe Color Wheel palette from photograph

Cost: Free

Coolors homepage

Adobe Color Wheel has so many useful features — it’s like the Swiss Army Knife of color planning — but sometimes you just want to mess around in one area without getting distracted by everything else going on.

Like what if you just wanted to play around with the palettes? This is where comes in.

The only thing Coolors does is spit out palettes. Fool-proof, pretty ones. All you have to do is click on the Generate link, which brings you to a row of five color bars. You can start with one hex code, then tap on your space bar for Coolors to come up with suggestions. You can also lock colors to remember the shades you want, or calibrate a shade up or down until you find one to your liking.

The palette below is the one I built for this website. I started with two shades that I really liked: Blush pink and a blackish purple like OPI’s Lincoln Park in the Dark nail polish. Once I put in the two hex codes, Coolors came up with the three other suggestions.

A sample palette from Coolors

It’s important to know that each shade must have a role to play and not just be merely decorative. In this informative blog post by Adobe, an ideal palette is broken down by one neutral color, two ‘pop’ colors and one call-to-action (CTA) color. You’ll find that having structure such as this in creating a palette will head off potential headaches in future, eg H1s or headlines that don’t stand out from body copy.

Hello Color

Cost: Free

Hello Color

Sometimes you don’t need an entire palette — all you need is a contrasting color that doesn’t look like dreck. You want to achieve what Pablo Picasso once mused aloud in wonder: ‘Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing?’

Hello Color is as minimal as it gets. Just type in the hex code of your preferred color in the URL’s c parameter (see the visual below on where to find it) and it’ll spit out a fine matching color that you’d never have thought of, as well as other shades. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

How customize Hello Color

Brand Colors

Cost: Free

Brand Colors homepage

Now that you’ve had a go at creating palettes and seen some not-too-shabby results, you may be interested in replicating the palettes of specific brands. Perhaps you’ve seen the below infographic that spurred the idea, or read up on color theory and want to apply these insights to your own brand. Hey if red works for Virgin and Tesla …

Color Emotion Guide by The Logo Company

Brand Colors is a library of colors for 600+ brands, with an even spread across US and international names. All the hex codes are spelt out and you can download them for reference. The logos are sourced from official documentation such as identity/brand guidelines of press kits. If you are the steward of your company brand and think it ought to be featured, you can certainly suggest it to the site’s owner, Galen Gidman.

Brand Colors is not perfect — Boise State University is on the list while Apple isn’t — but it’s a great place to start researching other brands’ palettes and noting how they’re used.

Color Name

Cost: $.99

How Color Name works

Let’s say you’re out and about and saw a very fetching scene, the colors of which are so ravishing you’re inspired to create a palette.

You can take a photo with your iPhone and upload the photo to Adobe Color Wheel. Or you could download the Color Name app for 99 cents and start on your palette right there and then.

What’s neat about Color Name is that it identifies colors by name — what’s scarlet for you could be fuchsia for me — thus minimizing confusion. Just tap your finger on any part of the photograph and the app will provide the RGB specs and its official name for the color you picked. Tap on the color’s name at the top and it will bring you to a screen with RGB, CMYK, HSB and hex codes for the color plus three similar Pantone shades to consider.

All these apps demystify what we’ve always thought of as a skill belonging only to the artistically gifted. Choosing colors that look great is actually much more a science that it is an art.

‘Not only can color, which is under fixed laws, be taught like music, but it is easier to learn than drawing, whose elaborate principles cannot be taught,’ said French Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix, who lived in the 1800s. He may not have foreseen the wondrous 21st century tools that can do just that, but would’ve certainly appreciated the vistas they have opened for the non-artists among us.