July 30, 2013
Comms Best Practices
/ by Teresa Dankowski
#8: Oh, and Matt Harvey’s pitches get my attention every time too. Photo courtesy of slgckgc via Flickr.
Like many content creators, I lead a double life. Triple life, even. I do marketing and social media for Seek Or Shout, I’m a blogger at this fine establishment and in my “spare time” I moonlight as a freelance journalist, contributing to local magazines.
I know a thing or two about The Pitch. I’ve written pitches and press releases of my own, but more often I’m on the receiving end. There’s a lot of speculation as to what the PR community does wrong, but I’d rather share with you the things they do right—the 7 PR Pitches That Will Get My Attention Every Time.
1) You’re familiar with what I write. Knowing which outlets I contribute to is only half the battle. A pitch that shows you’ve read the outlet, shows you know the difference between trade and consumer coverage and acknowledges the topics I cover, gets high marks in my book. Any pitch that does that and takes into account my niche, style or tone will get me downright giddy. When you put any effort into showing me that you’re familiar with my work and you didn’t pitch me at random, I become interested in starting a working relationship with you.
2) You know what I’ve covered recently. This is more than understanding that “marketing” and “social media” are beats that I cover. This is understanding that I recently wrote about e-mail marketing subject lines and Twitter best practices, so now is not a good time to pitch an interview with your subject line wizard or Twitter expert. However, what really impresses me is when a PR pro can use this knowledge to pitch a derivative or follow-up story: “I see you recently covered subject lines. I have a client who’s done research on the best times of day to send marketing e-mails, if you’d be interested in covering that?” Well done.
3) You keep it conversational and brief. I’d much rather have two or three lines from you explaining what your book, app or event is about than a press release pasted into the body of the e-mail that I have to read to the end in order to figure out if your story is compatible with my coverage. Brevity is a more efficient approach—and if your e-mail starts with “Hi Teresa” instead of “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,” it’s a much friendlier approach too. I think it’s a better practice to provide me with a link to the press release in your social newsroom, so I have the option to access more information without the e-mail getting text-heavy.
4) Your pitch is timely. I love a pitch with a well-parlayed news hook. If you can relate your pitch to a current event or human interest story, you have my attention, and you’ll most likely have my readers’ attention. Be careful, though—the PRs who do this best know that news hooks must be tactful, non-exploitative and can’t seem overreaching.
5) You can tell me why your story is relevant to my readers. Pitches that explain why the story will resonate are pure gold. When I used to write for a parenting magazine, I received many superb health pitches that elucidated, in the opening lines, how new vaccines, state mandates or product recalls would directly affect the families at the core of my audience. You need to help me connect the dots so I can understand the impact or urgency of the story you’re telling me.
6) You ask before sending attachments or mailed packages. This courtesy is rare, so I appreciate it when a PR professional asks! Generally, if bloggers and journalists require more information for a story, we’ll ask. I regularly ask for phone interviews, high-resolution photos and media kits. But I prefer this information after I decide to cover the story, because I don’t want to be bombarded with every single detail before we’re acquainted, I don’t want my inbox to get flooded with large files if I’m not yet interested in your pitch and I don’t like receiving unexpected packages—save the trees! I appreciate it when a PR person says, “Can I send you anything else you might need for this story?” because it’s not presumptuous and we can fill in the blanks together. (Or as I mentioned in #3, linking to your social newsroom will let me savor the details when I’m ready.)
7) You leave me wanting to know more. This goes back to being brief. When you provide just enough detail for me to grasp the scope of the story and get started mentally assembling my list of interview or follow-up questions, you leave me interested. Chances are, I’ll click on your link, I’ll do some Googling to learn more or I may e-mail you back to request a sample or demonstration. Pique my curiosity and I’ll pursue the story further.
What makes a pitch stand out to you? We’d love to know what you think in the Comments below.
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