UPDATE: Liz has written a follow-up to this post titled ‘Pitching, Part Deux‘ – check it out
Ok. You are now officially a publicist. You have been given the responsibility of scoring coverage for your clients. Where do you start?
Pitching can be nerve-wracking the first time around. Are you emailing the right reporter? What if you don’t know the answers to their questions? Are you doing this right?
Don’t let “What if?” get you down. I have been yelled at before, publicly called out on mistakes and even hung up on. I can also guarantee you I have scored pretty amazing coverage for our clients in top-tier outlets and formed great relationships because of it.
I wanted to share a few of my pitching tips that have helped me in scoring coverage over the years. Feel free to add your pitching tips and tricks in the comments below!
Be a News Junkie – One of the most important pieces of advice I have ever received is to read. Read a lot. Know everything there is to know about your client’s industry, the reporters who are covering it and the outlets they are published in. Read about the competitors, the trends and the news announcements being made. By being up-to-speed with what is happening in your client’s industry, you can quickly and easily insert them into new stories and ongoing conversations. Use these trends as fodder (yes, Jen, I used fodder) to create a larger story where your client can be used as a resource and thought leader in the space.
Write Ballsy Subject Lines – Think of your subject line as the first impression. We have all been told 100 times first impressions are key and if you screw it up, you are done. Provide a subject that is punchy, witty or otherwise funny and you are more likely to get that reporter to open the email. I can almost guarantee you that if you have a long, boring subject line filled with keyword jargon, the reporter will automatically delete your email without even opening it and your chance is gone. Keep it short, to the point and funny. Think to yourself, would I want to open this email?
Keep it Short and Simple – I hate – hate – hate excessively long pitches filled with your typical “revolutionary, innovative, first-of-its-kind” bullshit reporters will see right through. I mean, really, tell me you get an email that is a three-page-long essay – Do you really want to read all that? I get a headache just looking at the text (hence the giant box of Advil in my office) and chances are you are going to lose me after the first paragraph, anyway. Reporters feel the same way. Try to keep pitches around three short paragraphs letting them know what your idea is and how you can help them.
Build Relationships – Here is a lesson you can relate to from the time you were a kid. Everybody has that one friend who clearly only cares about themselves and only reaches out when they need or want something. Don’t be that PR person reaching out to reporters for your own gain. Position yourself as a resource for reporters to turn to when looking for a story and help them find sources that aren’t your clients. I once helped a USA Today reporter with a cover story he was working on about couples in business together. I saw he tweeted that he was looking for couple’s therapists. I happened to know someone so I connected the two. That reporter might not take a briefing with my client every time, but I can guarantee you he always reads my pitches, provides feedback and points me to the right contact whenever I reach out.
Be Persistent – I can’t stress this one enough. PR people tend to be called out as stalkers and I can confirm, we are. There is a fine line between being a good PR person and ending up on the other end of a lawsuit for harassment. Find the balance and stay on top of people. It’s the difference between getting a great story placed and never seeing your clients name in ink.