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.