Opportunity knocks. Follow these three rules to make sure your pitches work for journalists—rather than irk them.
Looking for pitching advice? Search Twitter. The results might surprise you.
For example, “Friends don’t pitch friends on Facebook, only Twitter,” tweeted @mn_yng at a recent Ragan PR conference in New York City.
“Struggling with email subject lines? Use 6-10 keywords and write it before your email,” tweeted @Profeshellnall from the same conference.
Less surprising are media tweets exposing lame pitches. Our favorites come courtesy of RedEye Chicago contributor Matt Lindner. A recent gem: “Work today begins with an emoji-laden PR pitch with ‘please’ spelled as ‘pls’ and no, just no a hundred thousand million times no,” he tweeted from @MattLindner.
So how do you make sure your pitches stand out—in a good way? Sprint PR manager Michelle Leff Mermelstein shares three in-depth tips for earning ink and avoiding Twitter rants:
- Personalize, personalize, personalize. “Choose a select group of targets who matter most and personalize your emails to each of them,” Mermelstein says. “Study their work—especially what they are excited about on Twitter—and cite that in the first sentence of your email.”
She shares two examples of opening sentences that cite a reporter’s recent work:
- “I read an article you wrote about ‘5 Places to Witness One of Nature’s Greatest Fall Spectacles’ and appreciated your sharing where people could view monarch butterflies during their annual migration.”
- “How are you? I noticed you started the ‘Let’s Eat’ segment for USAToday.com. I just watched the video you did on McCormick and it’s awesome; it was really interesting to learn about all the different technical and flavor innovations they use to predict trends and stay relevant in the industry.”
Only then tell how your story fits in with the topics your target journalists cover. “Explain that it’s different enough from what they’ve already covered that it is still new,” Mermelstein says. “Be genuine.”
Watch PR Daily’s PR University webinar “Pitching Tech Media: Engadget, Forbes, Sprint Share Secrets of Placing in Top Tech Blogs and Media” to reach audiences with your tech product, service or story.
- Nurture 10 top relationships. “Follow 10 publications, whether online or print, and read one article a day from each,” Mermelstein says. “Over time, you’ll get a sense of what particular writers are interested in writing about, and you’ll be able to gauge the tone a publication utilizes.”
The best part is that you become a true reader. “Dive right in there, submit comments, ask questions,” she suggests. “Engage with the writer. In the end, you can use this knowledge to your advantage.”
Similarly, read the newspaper and everything you can get your hands on about your subject matter. “Truly be an SME (subject matter expert) for your reporters and your employer or clients,” Mermelstein says. “Consume the news. Love the news. Pay attention to industry news, set Google alerts and follow important peers on Twitter.”
- Package the pitch. “Reporters love stats, but access to real people they can film or take photos of is even more attractive,” Mermelstein says. “Think people first, data later.”
When crafting your pitch, ask yourself whether you can provide the reporter or producer access to someone affected by your organization. Even better is offering your target journalist an interview with your founder or a celebrity with close ties to your issue, service or product.
Mermelstein adds that pitches should include as many of the following as possible:
- All the details
- At least one executive quote
- A third-party quote or accolade
- Links to relevant news sources
- Infographics attached as low res with an offer to provide high-res versions (when possible)
- Images, video, graphics
“This is called packaging your pitch,” Mermelstein says. “Don’t leave your pitch half-baked; be ready to answer questions. Have the pitch ready to go, as if the reporter will want to run it immediately. The less groundwork a reporter has to do for your story, the more likely they are to use it.”
Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and webinar manager for PR Daily’s PR University. Daniel Cooper, senior editor at Engadget; Alex Konrad, staff writer at Forbes; and Michelle Leff Mermelstein, PR manager at Sprint, share more media relations tips in this PR University webinar, “Pitching Tech Media: Engadget, Forbes, Sprint Share Secrets of Placing in Top Tech Blogs and Media.”