You’re really great at what you do, but writing publishable content and successfully pitching it to media outlets might not be within your comfort zone—and that’s totally ok. If you’re wearing many hats and marketing and PR is part of what you’re doing right now to get your business up off the ground, we’ve compiled some best practices for landing that all-important first media feature (and pitching media in general).
But first, know that there are way more public relations professionals than journalists in the workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest data (272,300 vs. 46,700 in 2020), so you should be aware that there is often a lot of competition for a writer’s attention. Don’t panic, though. There are ways to capture a writer or editor’s notice; it’s just going to take a bit more than sending out 100 identical pitches.
Instead, follow these tips for earning media coverage.
Make sure the content (and pitch) is relevant. This is a layered piece of advice. Let’s walk through it. Whether you’re pitching a finished piece of content or an idea that you want the writer to pick up for her outlet, you absolutely must have knowledge about that outlet (the actual blog, magazine/e-zine, podcast, etc.) and the writer’s specific beat (e.g., what the writer covers for that outlet). You must also be keenly aware of the audience the writer and her outlet or publisher are targeting with their content. Finally, relevance in this context typically also includes timeliness and/or newsworthiness. You must answer the writer’s inevitable question: Why now?
Pitch how you’d want to be pitched. So here’s the thing. Phoniness is gross, and most people do not respond well to it. You can spend time padding your pitch full of chit-chat in an attempt to be BFFs with the person you’re pitching, but you’d be much better off following some simple common-sense rules and just being friendly. For instance, absolutely customize each pitch to a real person and use his or her name (SPELL IT RIGHT). Make it clear that you know what the person covers and who her audience is. Tell her why your content would be a good fit for her outlet/audience, and why it is timely. Be friendly but professional and keep it concise.
No stalking. After you send your thoughtful pitch, you still may not get a response. Follow-ups are totally acceptable and a good idea. Sometimes the first email goes to spam or comes in at a bad time. However, if you cross a line into stalking—for instance, by persistently reaching out multiple times in multiple ways (emails, DMs, tweets, etc.), you’re now being a pest. Send a couple of follow-ups and then move on if you don’t hear back.
Remember, writers and editors need a steady stream of leads to do their jobs. Properly pitched, you’re providing something valuable and making that person’s life easier! If you’re pitching something that isn’t a good fit, though, it’s a total waste of time.
Ideally, you’ll send in your pitch and get a reply followed by that coveted earned media coverage. (You did it!) Another great result is winding up in that writer or editor’s equivalent of a “leads folder”—the place in her inbox where she files things away and then opens when she sits down to brainstorm for her next article, blog, or segment. If you’ve pitched a finished feature, maybe her next piece of content is already done … and that’ll be the start of a great relationship.
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