Pitching is par for the course in today’s marketing world. We pitch stories and ideas to gain exposure and build authority, and we pitch reporters to help our businesses earn coveted media exposure. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to pitch your story.
You’ve probably seen the wrong. The right way looks something like this:
1. Have something worth pitching: Sadly, this is where way too many business owners fail in the process. Yes, at step one.
Fueled with a sense of urgency to attract links and coverage, we sometimes pitch articles or news stories that simply aren’t interesting or worth the initial email. Have something worthy to pitch OR hold that email until you do.
What’s pitch worthy? Maybe you’re a new startup that solves an old problem or you’re a company using shock and awe tactics to surprise your customers and make their day. You need something that will make you stand out and make the recipient of your email want to learn more. If you don’t have something worth sharing, you’re not ready. Nothing slams doors harder than mediocrity.
2. Do your homework: Whether you’re approaching someone like the Huffington Post for a guest posting opportunity or you’re about to email a local reporter, be respectful of their time and do your homework beforehand. Study what their blog/site is about, learn which writers/reporters cover what topics, know the type of spin they use, what their hot buttons are, and who to contact for what kind of story. Once you have a specific writer in mind, find their personal email address. You’ll get a much better response emailing someone directly than using a generic email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org email.
3. Personalize your pitch: Because you’ve done your homework and you know the person you’re reaching out to, you’ll be able to better personalize your pitch. Talk about a recent post they’ve written or a stance you both share on a particular topic (but don’t lie!). One pet peeve Darren mentioned in his rant post was how obvious it was that the people contacting him were simply copying and pasting their messages. There was no attempt to personalize the email. Even if you’re pitching multiple people about the same story, do your due diligence and customize the pitch to that person. You may have 2-3 lines that are standard, but add personal elements to show there’s a human on the other end of the email.
4. Tell a good story: In most cases, it’s simply not enough that you have something cool to share (unless it’s really cool). You have to make people care by telling a story that ties what you’re pitching to what the recipient is selling. Anyone with a blog or a platform today is in the storytelling business. We tell stories about ourselves and our customers to get them to take a desired action and to make them feel something. Your pitch should lay out the benefit for the recipient and tell a story about how it will help their readers. Stories are what make people care about your business and your bottom line.
5. Get to the point: Respect your reader’s time by telling them, immediately, who you are, what you do, and why you’re contacting them. If they want to learn more about you, they’ll respond to your email and ask. Be brief and resist the urge to tell your complete life story in your initial email. Learn to get your message and story across in just a few sentences.
6. Include all pertinent information: Somewhere in your pitch you want to provide all of the information this person will need to get in touch with you. If you’re emailing them they already have your email address but include the URL for your site/blog, your Twitter handle, and any other pertinent information. Don’t make them search for it to find you. Because they probably won’t.
7. Be helpful: Regardless of whether or not your pitch is accepted on the first attempt, don’t end the relationship after that interaction. Find ways to keep yourself and your company top of mind for that blog or site by lending a helpful hand whenever you can. Maybe that means connecting them to someone they should know, recommending a new source/contact, or pointing them toward a story that doesn’t involve you but would be of interest their audience. By fostering that relationship and acting like a good Web citizen, your contact will be more likely to keep you in mind for future stories.
Whether it’s for an interview, a blog post, or a story about our company, we all have to pitch sometimes. But by crafting a pitch that is relevant and respectful, you’re much more likely to get a positive response. Because if that reporter from USA Today is going to mention your company, you want him to mention it for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.