Public relations can become an essential part of your business’ brand awareness and recognition strategy. Over the past 10 years, I’ve made all types of PR pitches, to all types, in various industries and fields.
What I’ve learned along the way is that it doesn’t matter who or what you are pitching, the main concepts of what makes a good pitch is true across the board.
You know the drill: You email your pitch to a reporter, blogger or event director. A few days go by with no response in your inbox. You start to wonder, “Why aren’t they responding? My business would be perfect in that magazine.”
You may be overlooking some very common mistakes that cause your pitch to miss the mark. I’m going to tell you what the mistakes are and how to fix them, so you can snag those coveted placements you so desire.
Mistake #1: This is the first time you’ve ever reached out to them.
Sometimes you get lucky and you get coverage after your first pitch to a reporter, establishing the start of a new relationship. Many times though, reporters won’t cover you simply because they don’t know you or trust you yet. This comes down to laying the groundwork and what I call “Scratch their back and they’ll scratch yours.”
This philosophy applies to life, business and PR. No one likes to feel used. The way to fix this is to send communications consistently (don’t spam them though!) about you and your business, creating a trickle of flowing information that begins to lay the foundation of trust. Let them start to get to know you and your business BEFORE you go in for the request of coverage. That way, when you have the big story ready, you have an established relationship with this reporter and don’t have to cold pitch them. Your chances of coverage will be much higher.
Think of this like a bank account. If you make deposit after deposit into it (trickle of communications), you’ll accrue a balance. When you’re ready to make a withdrawal (coverage request), there’s a surplus to take from, not putting you in the negative.
Your trickle of communications items could be anything from new hires, company news, and information about you and your business that you know are not PR-worthy but a great way to get acquainted. A great way to kick it off is to send an introduction email introducing yourself and your business to the reporter, with a bit of information about both, inviting them to use you as a resource for any stories they need help with. Scratch their back and they will scratch yours.
Mistake #2: Your business isn’t a good fit for the reporter, publication or event you’re pitching.
This comes down to a lack of research and is my number one recommendation to make your pitches better. You should be researching the person and publication you’re pitching. Read all their published articles; Google them to see if they have a personal blog; look at their social media networks.
All of this will give you a birds-eye view into what topics they cover, personal interests, any things you may have in common with them (maybe even friends in common who can make an intro!) and their overall personality, which will help you when writing your pitch (more on this later). Reporters love when you reference something they’ve written or key facts about them because it shows that you took the time to do your research.
The same goes for the publication or event you are pitching. You don’t want to be pitching a women’s entrepreneur magazine if your business doesn’t work with women entrepreneurs.
I can hear you saying, “But, research takes so much time.” Trust me, it will pay off ten-fold when you create a pitch that is so irresistible they can’t help but give you coverage.
Mistake #3: You aren’t writing for your audience.
You’ve probably been told this time and time again, “Write for your audience.” Well, it’s true for PR too. Let’s say you’ve done your research and are pitching a reporter who you know covers your business area but your pitch has a lot of acronyms and technical lingo. What you didn’t account for is this reporter doesn’t do what you do everyday and may not know what an “ADC” stands for, so he presses delete on your email.
Popular reporters can receive 1,000 pitches a day. They are only going to read the ones that fit into their coverage area and speak their language.
Reading their previous articles is a great way to get a feel for their writing style and possible words that you can use in your pitch.
Mistake #4: Your pitch is multiple paragraphs and doesn’t tell them what you’re pitching until paragraph four.
I could tell you: Get to the point in ten words or less OR How writing longer sentences can sometimes lose a reporters’ attention, which will severely impact whether or not they will give you a placement. Do you see the difference? Both of those statements imply the same message—that you should keep things brief when writing email pitches but one got to the point quickly, while the other may have lost your attention.
Reporters are people just like you, with very short attention spans. They’ve got those 1,000 emails coming in and about thirty seconds to scan yours for a match.
So make yours grab their attention and state the facts right up front. Make your pitch 1-2 paragraphs maximum, with an attention grabbing first sentence followed by the main thing you want them to cover. Don’t post an entire press release in the email body! Give them the pertinent highlights and attach the full press release for them to read if they want additional information. Keep it short, sweet and interesting.
Mistake #5: You sent your email on a Monday morning at 8am.
There are certain days and times that your inbox goes crazy, I’d bet. Mine is always clogged on Monday morning. Reporters have the same issue. That’s why it’s so important to strategize on the day and time you send your email and not send it whenever is convenient for you.
Put yourself in the reporters’ shoes with the research you’ve done and think through their workday or week to pinpoint the ideal time to reach out.
Is there a time zone difference? What’s their busiest or slowest time? Timing is different for every reporter and each industry.
For instance, when I pitch advertising reporters, I know most are located in New York (Mad Men anyone?). That means I need to be mindful of the time zone differences and the fact that they are bombarded on Monday morning and usually darting out the door on Friday afternoons. So, I shoot for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon time, on either Wednesday or Thursday when their workload might not be as heavy as the beginning of the week.
Mistake #6: You never followed up after you sent your email pitch.
You remember those 1,000 emails reporters receive? Well, they might not be responding to yours because it simply got buried and they never even saw it. It happens ALL the time.
Don’t be afraid to follow up with them!
I usually follow up by email 2-3 days after my initial pitch and then call them 4-5 days after the initial pitch, if I have their number. It can be a bit nerve wracking to cold-call a reporter but I’ve had some that were so thankful I called and said they’ve had a hell of a week, resulting in a great conversation and press coverage. If you don’t hear from them after your follow up attempts, then it’s time to let it go. They are either too busy or not interested. Either way, it’s better to focus your energy elsewhere and try them again at a later date.
Now it’s your turn. Which mistakes stood out to you the most? Do you have other pitch mistakes you’d like to share? Share your insights in the comments below.