The Essential Dos and Don’ts Of Pitching The Press

July 20, 2016

10:15 am

Wondering how yet another of your competitors just landed a dream press mention? It’s not always a great behind-the-scene PR team in action. Securing great press coverage for free is equally attainable both for startups in trendy niches and companies in the seemingly boring ones.

For a start –  say goodbye to recycled, mass-sent press releases no one actually read these days, and follow the next simple, yet effective set of pitching guidelines:

Do Keep It Short

Journalists are a busy crowd. Some of the most well-known ones receive hundreds of pitches (great and poor ones) or a daily basis. Don’t be another meaningless stranger inside their inbox and try breaking the ice on Twitter at first. You can use MuckRack or Followerwonk to find the right people in your niche, follow them, engage with their questions and afterward pitch your idea in 140 symbols. Most likely this will lead to further conversation.

Don’t Make It All About You

Here’s the harsh truth – most journalists don’t care about who you are and what you do even if your company may be the next Instagram. Your pitch is merely another notification in their email with an unknown name on top of it.

Hence, be crystal clear with the “what’s in it for them” component of your pitch. Will your story drive them publication massive traffic? Will it resonate well with their audience? Or maybe that’s how they could reach a new untapped audience segment. Explain them why they should care about your story in the first place in plain, simple English.

Do Become an Active Source

While a lot of journalists already have an established database of trusted sources, tracking down some rare contacts for a specific story is still a hassle. That’s exactly where you can step in. Sign up to one of the online platforms for finding sources with HARO being the most popular ones among web publishers, and start proactively replying to a daily list of relevant queries.  

“We’ve decided to give HARO a try just a few months ago. At first, we didn’t have much luck with landing any mentions, but after refining our pitch guidelines, we’ve managed to connect and secure placements with some great independent fashion publishers and have a story in progress for The Huffington Post. Be straight to point, timely and persistent and all the efforts with HARO will pay off,” – advices Lebron  Meng, SEO Manager of Stylewe.

Don’t Pitch Multiple People from the Same Editorial

Emailing different people from the same editorial team on the same day won’t get your query noticed. In fact, that would be a massive story killer as you know…people tend to talk about the pitches they receive at work and once they spot a duplicate one – the deal will likely be off.

Do Your Homework Well

One of the most annoying types of PR pitches according to journalists is when the company clearly forgot to do their research on the writer’s background and specialty. Inviting someone from France to cover your expo in Hong Kong in a week isn’t really smart. Same applies for what kind of industry the person is covering – a one-off piece about the food startup industry definitely doesn’t make the author automatically interested in your new cookbook or food truck business. You’ll find more success in pitching the right person in the right publication if you do at least some basic background research.

Don’t Send Out Impersonal Pitches

An email pitch starting with “Hi Dear Journalist” or “Hi web publisher” automatically goes to the trash. If you failed to research the author’s name, why should they care about covering your company in the first place? Also, make sure you didn’t misspell their name as you know Kirsten and Kristina are two different names.

Do Use Data to Back Up Your Story Angle

Digital publishers are highly dependent on traffic and page views in the modern digital publishing landscape. Justify your story’s newsworthiness by backing up with some valuable data. You can easily source that from Google Trends, Trendspottr or Buzzsumo.

Happy pitching and let your story be heard!

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Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien

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