How successful have your media pitching efforts been? Have you landed high-quality media coverage from sending emails to reporters? If you haven’t been seeing success, there may be some easy fixes to help you land your next placement. Read on for some advice on honing your pitching strategy.
Common Pitching Mistakes You Might Be Making
The Mistake: Not Pitching the Right Person
The Fix: Research the Publication to Find the Best Fit
If your pitches are being sent to the spam folder, you may not be contacting the right person at the media outlet. Many pitches reach Editors or Assignment Editors who may not be the one writing the story. You can dramatically raise the odds of gaining coverage by getting the “right” journalist interested.
It’s important to remember to visit the publication, read some of their most recent articles and do your research in order to approach the correct person. For example, while you may be conversing with a radio show Host on air during an interview, you will be corresponding with the Producer when you make your pitch. Often, you should approach a Staff Writer instead of an Editor in Chief, as they are most likely to be seeking new story ideas. Take the time to determine the most appropriate contact at each media outlet and address your pitch to them.
The Mistake: Your Pitch is Too Generic
The Fix: Find a Newsworthy Story Angle and Cater the Pitch
Generic pitches are likely to be ignored; would you write a story without having a solid angle or relevant details? Carefully tailored pitches are more likely to incite a response from a journalist, so make sure to identify the key points and share a story, not a product or promotion. Once you’ve identified a story angle that’s a good fit for the reporter, you should repeat the process for each media outlet you contact.
The Mistake: Your Pitch Isn’t Personalized
The Fix: Double, Triple, Quadruple Check Names and Spellings
How would you feel if you opened an email and your name was spelled incorrectly? What if it was addressed to someone else? You’d probably delete it. Avoid having this happen to your message by remembering to personalize it; lead with the reporter’s name (spelled correctly!) and do not address the pitch to a generic news desk. This will show the influencer you’ve been researching them and took time to make your message personal.
The Mistake: Your Pitch is Off-Topic
The Fix: Find a Newsworthy Story Angle and Cater the Pitch
When pitching all sectors of the media, you should make sure your pitch subject line and introductory paragraph is compelling and draws the reporter in. Identify the most newsworthy portion of your story and lead with that; you want to make your pitch as clear and powerful as possible. Doing your research by reading articles written by your chosen contact is a good way to make sure your communication is relevant.
The Mistake: You’re Just Sending Press Releases
The Fix: Add a Targeted, Personalized Greeting
A press release may cover all of the necessary information you are trying to convey about your business, but they may bog down journalists who are looking for news. There is so much more to public relations than writing and sending press releases. In fact, many times a pitch can be more effective than a press release.
Try pairing a press release with a quick email introduction highlighting main bullet points from the release. Instead of sending a long release with lots of details, break it down into a short paragraph that shares an overview of key points and include it at the top of the release. That way, if a journalist is hooked by your greeting, they are more likely to read the whole thing if they are seeking more information. The reporter will appreciate you taking the time to craft a separate message that simplifies the story and relates it to their readers.
The Mistake: The Pitch is Too Long
The Fix: Keep it Short and Sweet
Long winded explanations of company history or product specs won’t receive a response from a journalist. Keep the pitches short and sweet, including only relevant information. While it may take many paragraphs or pages to tell your full story, remember writing a pitch is about spelling out the basics and teasing the journalist about the newsworthy qualities of your brand. It’s best to leave out most of the information in favor of a few key details; if the reporter wants the full story, they will ask you for it.
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The Mistake: You Aren’t Connecting to Their Audience
The Fix: Identify a Strong, Relevant Connection
If you received an email that wasn’t relevant to you, you probably wouldn’t read it; journalists won’t either. A media outlet’s credibility is built on its audience so it’s important to consider not just the reporter themselves, but their readership when determining if your offering is a good fit for coverage. Any easy way to get the low-down on a site’s readership is to follow their social media channels and find out who else is following them. Make sure your pitch is tailored to their audience because this is what ultimately drives the media outlet’s content.
In addition to reading recent articles and checking out fans and followers, you should also research the journalist on social media. It can always help to add a line at the bottom of your pitch saying you are going to connect with them on via social platforms; it shows you took the time to research them (just make sure you actually do it!)
Frequently, Twitter and other social media platforms are used to send pitches to journalists in addition to traditional emails. If you pitch the media on social networking sites, be sure to socialize first, then bring up business by engaging with the reporter on their recent issues. Twitter is also helpful for media research because it’s an easy location to determine a journalist’s specialty.
The Mistake: You Haven’t Done Your Research
The Fix: Read the Reporter’s Last Five Articles
It may be a no-brainer to read the work of the influencer you plan to pitch, but many people miss this step. Take the extra time to skim the writer’s last five or so articles to get a feel for their audience and niche. You should also pay attention to the dates of these stories; you don’t want to pitch a blogger who hasn’t written anything for a few months (or years!)
Different segments of the media should be pitched differently. Specifically, blogs tend to be more personal and tailored to the blogger’s life, so it’s important to take the time to read and research their site and make sure your pitch is a good fit. Many bloggers have a Gravatar or About section where they link all of their personal and professional pages so you can get a full picture of them and their lifestyle.
The Mistake: You Aren’t Offering Anything of Value
The Fix: Share What’s In It for Them
Do you have a revolutionary new product that can transform the life of its users? Show the reporter why it’s amazing! Create a video, press kit or share images of the product in use to engage the blogger and let them know why it’s important that they share it with their readers. However, try not to hog the spotlight.
While you are writing a pitch to introduce a journalist to your brand and share why they should cover your story, don’t make the mistake of writing it all about you. Instead of touting all of the business or brand’s recent accomplishments and introducing their great new product offerings, make the pitch about the journalist and their readers. Share why your story will benefit them and you’ll be more likely to catch their attention.
The Mistake: Your Subject Line is Boring or Off-Topic
The Fix: Follow This Three-Step Formula
The subject line serves as an introduction to your pitch and a window into you or your client’s world. Most pitches lacking good subject lines are deleted and never read, so learning to craft a good one is worth the effort. Creating a subject line to use for pitching the media is similar to writing a headline for an article. Here are three ways to craft a great one:
- Promise Something: While readers and fans will be drawn in from a creative headline, a journalist is looking for a bit more. Searching for a story their readers will love, they are looking for the newest news and the hottest trends. Try writing a subject line that draws the reader in and promises a story readers would be interested in like, “This new sushi trend has taken Seattle by storm.”
- Give Them Exclusive Information: Journalists want to be the first ones to cover a story, not recycling news that’s already happened. An essential part of pitching to the media is giving them a fresh story. Trying a subject line that begins with “Exclusive” or offers an interview with an expert, may help.
- Try a Question: Does your pitch contain research or access to an industry leader who holds the answers to common questions? Let that be known in your subject line! Try asking a question you know customers are asking and show the journalist you are the best person to answer it. An example is, “What’s the first appliance in your home you should upgrade?” Effective media relations tactics help connect consumers with experts who can help them.
The Mistake: Not Properly Following Up
The Fix: Practice Pleasant Persistence
After you’ve pitched a journalist, you might not receive and immediate response. Following up in a professional and timely manner will help give your pitch more attention than it would otherwise receive.
If you pitched your story to the media and didn’t receive a response, consider revising your offer. Prepare to present an advance product sample, an exclusive interview or a new angle to the story to give it a fresh perspective.
Contacting the media and getting your brand placed in a story all begins with writing an email pitch. Crafting a message that is strong and interesting can be a challenge and these are just several of the mistakes many PR pros may make during the process.