March 02, 2015 / by Jim Dougherty

Journalists may prefer to be pitched on LinkedIn rather than Twitter or on their own blog. According to this survey, LinkedIn ranks as the third most preferred platform for PR pitches after email and telephone.

Deciding to pitch on LinkedIn is probably done based upon how frequently the journalist uses LinkedIn and how open they are to a LinkedIn pitch. What I want to do in this post is take a look at some of the nuances of the LinkedIn platform to describe how you can optimize a LinkedIn pitch.

InMail vs. Messages

Message in bottle - Pitching on LinkedIn

One of the first decisions to make when considering a LinkedIn pitch is the messaging vehicle that you use. There are two types of messages that you can send through LinkedIn:

  • InMail – These are paid messages that you can send to anyone using your premium LinkedIn account, regardless of their connection to you. Sending an InMail message is appropriate when you don’t have a previous relationship with the journalist, and you have the budget to do this.
  • Messages – LinkedIn messages are free and permissible between first-degree connections. Messaging journalists in this way is contingent upon a previous relationship (or very low standards for connection).

If you’re a PR practitioner on a budget, you might try to connect to a bunch of journalists that you don’t know prior to pitching them. This is probably a bad idea. Imagine how it looks to an already skeptical journalist to receive a LinkedIn request from a PR practitioner that they don’t know. Odds are that they will decline your request, and your LinkedIn account could be put in jeopardy because of this (it’s not permissible to try to link to people you don’t know).

Note also that as of the beginning of 2015, LinkedIn charges you for InMail that don’t receive a response back. Previously, InMail messages were credited back to the account if no response was received. A LinkedIn pitch that doesn’t resonate has a high likelihood of hitting you in the pocketbook, where effective pitches may give you the opportunity to stretch your PR budget a little further.

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Pitches don’t change on LinkedIn

When sending a pitch via LinkedIn, it is still a pitch. Pitches are platform-agnostic: you want to persuade a writer to partner with you to inform your publics.

Teresa Dankowski wrote a great piece for Cision describing what she considers a successful pitch. In it she outlines seven “wants:”

  1. You’re familiar with what I write.
  2. You know what I’ve covered recently.
  3. You keep it conversational and brief.
  4. Your pitch is timely.
  5. You can tell me why your story is relevant to my readers.
  6. You ask before sending attachments or mailed packages.
  7. You leave me wanting to know more.

There are plenty of other perspectives on this, but the point is that LinkedIn is a medium and shouldn’t cause your message to substantially change. Journalists don’t have any more time, interest or patience for you on LinkedIn than they do on email or on the phone.

Your LinkedIn “research” is out in the open

LinkedIn PItches Visible

One of the unique aspects of LinkedIn is that your activity is publicly available. The profiles you’ve visited, the groups you are a part of, and the people you follow are all easily accessible to a journalist that you’re pitching. Here’s the double-edged sword of LinkedIn:

You can gain context by following a journalist on LinkedIn:

Although I don’t know for certain, I would guess that most journalists don’t accept unsolicited LinkedIn invitations from PR practitioners. Journalists who use LinkedIn regularly will make their posts public, however. This is a way to gain some context about a journalist, especially if you’re pitching them on LinkedIn.

Following someone on LinkedIn is pretty straightforward. Go to their profile -> recent updates -> and press the yellow “Follow” button in the upper right hand corner. of the page. Their public updates will appear in your newsfeed as if they were a connection.

You can easily look like a stalker as well

If you are moderately active on LinkedIn, you’ve probably been down the “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” rabbit hole and seen people you don’t know looking at your profile. You start to wonder what these people want, if you should remember some sort of connection to them, or if they’re part of a vast government conspiracy (kidding about that one).

Apart from following a journalist on LinkedIn, there isn’t a need to continue to revisit their profile until you’re ready to pitch (especially if you have access to the Cision database). This way your behavior leading up to a pitch isn’t left open to interpretation or blocking. You can use the Rapportive Chrome extension to parse administrative details from LinkedIn on the down-low if necessary.

Don’t pitch groups

There is nothing more frustrating than a poorly moderated LinkedIn group. Lack of moderation invites spam.

You may wonder why this is relevant to a PR pitch on LinkedIn groups. Here’s why: pitching to a LinkedIn group = spamming a LinkedIn group. THAT is the perception (and reality?).

Think about it from a journalist’s perspective: you are offering nothing exclusive and nothing particularly unique to what they write about. AND you’re adding nothing to the group discussion. This is spam. Don’t do it.

PRWeb offers a much more effective means to send out press releases (which is all a group PR pitch really is if we’re being honest).

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Journalists (in general) prefer email and phone pitches, but there are some alternative means to present a PR pitch. One survey indicates that LinkedIn is the best alternative.

If you decide to pitch on LinkedIn, it’s important to maintain good PR pitch practice and to understand the idiosyncrasies of the platform. Used properly, LinkedIn could be a powerful tool for your PR pitches.

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About Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty is a featured contributor to the Cision Blog and his own blog, leaderswest. His areas of interest include statistics, technology, and content marketing. When not writing, he is likely reading, running, playing guitar or being a dad. PRSA member. Find him on Twitter @jimdougherty.