Don’t Pitch Media, Pitch Humans: Fresh Tips on Personalizing Outreach

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Want to know what it’s like to be a reporter or blogger swamped with impersonal media pitches?

Look at the last 20 LinkedIn invitations you’ve received.

If yours are like mine, 90 percent simply retain the default language: “I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn.” (And almost all of mine come from PR pros, who specialize in knowing how to target messages to specific people.)

I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this LinkedIn faux pas, too, although I usually try to write a brief note explaining how we know each other and how connecting could be mutually beneficial.

I’m guessing most PR people do the same with media pitches. We TRY to personalize them, but then life happens and we’re so overwhelmed ourselves with long media lists and other responsibilities, so we just cut and paste and hit send.

How can we meet journalists’ demanding — but fair — expectations, while at the same time getting all our work done?

Here’s a two-tiered solution:

1. Choose a select group of targets who matter most and personalize your emails to each of them.

Targeted Media for Pitching

Study their work (especially what they are excited about on Twitter) and cite that in the first sentence of your email. Only then tell how your (brief) pitch fits in to the type of things they cover, but is different enough from what they’ve already covered that it is still new.

Here are the opening lines of email pitches that have earned immediate responses from top-tier media:

“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 . . . I just watched the vid 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.”

“Congrats on the A-hed! I used to dream about writing one of those when I was a reporter. Happy to see the Journal editors recognizing fine talent.”

These all worked, but be careful not to robotically compliment previous coverage. There’s a nuance to it, and your pitch needs to relate to the coverage you’re citing.

2. (After you’ve sent your customized pitches . . .) For the rest of your media targets, draft a pitch you can send to all of them that’s as targeted as possible given the circumstances.

Target - Crisis Communications TIps

Don’t dive in to what’s so great about your client or company. Start by explaining what’s in it for the journalist or blogger. A good phrase to start with is “I know you cover . . .”

Avoid something obvious like, “I know you cover technology” or “I know you cover the Bay Area.”

Instead, focus as narrowly as you can – this will force you to segment your media list properly so you’re not pitching people who will have no interest in your subject. Here are some media pitch examples that begin with “I know you cover . . .”:

. . . SaaS startups closing major funding rounds

. . . workplace issues faced by working moms

. . . new smartphone apps that have achieved a critical mass of users

If you’re pitching different industry verticals, you can segment even further without taking too much more time. “I saw you cover retail marketing . . .” or “I see you’re interested in small business marketing trends . . .” could start off what is essentially the same pitch, just sent to retail or small biz outlets, respectively. But make sure the content is relevant to each vertical.

Focusing the first line of your email pitch on the recipient, instead of on you or your company, changes the tenor of the dialogue. Not only will you get more responses and more coverage, but you’ll morph from viewing your role as “pitching media” to “pitching humans.”

During the webinar I’m doing with Cision on February 26 at 2 p.m. ET, I’ll have more time to explain exactly how to choose your select few for customization and who gets left on the longer list.

I’ll also show the above pitches in their entirety, plus several others, including the one that landed this positive company profile in USA Today a couple weeks ago.

Looking forward to connecting with you then!

Michael Smart is the media pitching coach PR pros turn to when they want to boost their positive media placements. He’s trained more than 6,000 communicators from agencies large and small, from Fortune 50 companies to regional non-profits. He shares lots of tricks, including suggestions for subject lines that get your emails opened, with people who sign up for his weekly media pitching tips emails.

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