In my transition to the PR field, I’ve learned many things. A lot of what I should do, a lot of what I should have never done and what I need to get better at. With learning any new skill comes failure and getting back up to try again. I’m here to give you a binocular view of what life on the PR side of pitches looks like, mistakes I’ve made and how editors are reading these pitches you send out.
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Let’s start with mistakes you shouldn’t make…
1. Oops, I forgot to research
Let’s start with definite NO’s I’ve learned from, yes, the hard way. To start, always keep your reach close to home and accurate. When I first started pitching press releases and articles to editors and reporters, my first mistake was neglecting the research process. Your first thought might be, “I can get away with writing a killer pitch without wasting time on their site, they won’t even know!” Yeah, buttttt, they’ll definitely know. Your pitch will be completely off if you didn’t take at least a second to look into their website.
These people are the EDITORS and WRITERS of these websites; they are the voices of their brand and web presence. They know what they’ve written and what’s on there. If you fail to read into their bios and content, you might receive a response like this, “If you think I would cover something like this, I feel very sorry for your clients.” I know, because I received something very close to that the first time I sent out a large PR pitch. It didn’t feel good, but it was definitely an eye opener.
2. Let me tell you this long-winded story…
If there’s one thing editors care about the LEAST it’s your brand story. They couldn’t care less about who you are, who you work for and the story to back it all up. That’s one good way to get your pitch straight into the trash folder.
Think about when you open an email from someone and it’s eight years long…that’s a measurement, I’m using it, you can’t tell me I’m wrong. Anyway, whenever I see an email from someone I don’t know longer than the Amazon river, I look at it as an assignment. I’m likely going to look at the length, close out of it and tell myself I’m going to read it later and then probably never read it… If that’s how I feel about long-winded emails from organizations, think about how a busy editor or reporter feels when they see an email like that from a little field mouse PR practitioner. There will never be an off-chance they decide to read all that text. Not even with the most amazing subject line on the planet. Matt Braun, Director of Public Relations at Hanson Dodge Creative says,
“Get to the point. Don’t use these super long emails about the company. Tell the story of why its important to the writer’s readership within the first sentence. Be straight – aka have a good angle that shows you understand what makes news.”
3. The revenue looked good today…
Two problems when you write industry jargon-heavy copy. You could accidentally look stupid when you’re trying to look smart in front of highly seasoned experts in the field you’re pitching to. OR! Your copy could completely go over their head and miss an opportunity. The best solution? Ignore all jargon. Get to the point. Say exactly what you have and what you want from them… nicely 🙂
Now that we have a solid base of what to NEVER do, let’s take a look at what you can and should do.
1. DO provide tips and supporting stats…
Bulleted lists are always easy on the eyes and very digestible. As LONG as you keep the statements within those bulleted lists relatively short. If you can cut any heavy-looking copy, do it. Your format should be similar to this:
Hi *Person’s name* <<(always identify by name if you have it)
I read in your blog about ___________. I specifically like this about it. Given your site’s angle on blah blah blah, I would like to contribute a new angle about blah blah blah.
- Supporting stat
- Important stat
- Cool things to know with percent signs
I would be more than happy to send you some copy if you’re interested in taking a look. Please reach out to me via email at any time!
Thank you for your time,
This approach appears very simple but will actually take a long time to craft to ensure all the stats you use are relevant, up to date and you spend enough time on their website to grasp a solid understanding of their angle.
2. DO follow and follow-up
It’s easy to write a killer pitch, send it off and forget about it a week later. But that’s exactly what you don’t want to do. Set up a reminder for yourself to reach back out one week from your initial pitch to make sure they received your email and ask if they gave your idea any consideration. Keep face on Twitter (if they have one) in case you want to reach out to them again in the future with a new idea. Maybe the first pitch you sent wasn’t quite their style; find a different topic that could still work for their publication and give it another go around. There is a problem with being overly persistent. Don’t show up in their inbox every day unless you want to get blocked (or if you’re annoying enough) yelled at. If they ignore two pitches and two follow-ups, they probably don’t like you. Just kidding. Your content may simply not fit their content funnel.
When it comes down to it, be nice, do your homework and nurture your connections. It won’t happen today, tomorrow, or next week, but eventually, with enough presence in the space, your reach will obtain the company it deserves.