Pitching can be one of the most uncomfortable parts of doing PR for your business. It’s tough to put yourself in the limelight without feeling like you’re tooting your own horn, no matter how much you stand behind your product and believe it really is life-changing. But I find that if you have a little guidance into what a pitch should look like, it eliminates that awkward feeling because it provides confidence that you’re doing it right and coming across as professional, not braggy. There are certain things you can do in a pitch email to make sure it will be well-received, but even more importantly, that it has the highest likelihood of resulting in a secured article.
Attract their attention
The Subject line is the first thing the writer will ever see. And if it’s not good, it may be the only thing they ever see. This is how they determine if they’re even going to open the email. Come up with a catchy headline. What will make you stand out in their crowded inbox? How do the headlines in their publications sound? How can you make your subject line fit in with that and sound like a clickable story that would fit in on their website?
Another trick is to use their name in the subject itself. That can catch their eye, and also make clear that this isn’t a mass email that you sent to 50 writers at once. It feel personal and gives them a reason to be curious about the note. Example: Say “Hi so-and-so, (insert headline)”
Make it personal
Use the writer’s name when addressing them in the intro of the email too, and fit the name of the publication into the body of the email. Doing this makes it obvious that you really meant this email for them, and didn’t potentially just blind cc this same exact message to tons of writers and publications, which nobody likes. They want to feel that you reached out to them specifically with an idea you thought is most relevant to them. Another great way to add personalization and also a bit of friendly conversation (with a side of suck-up) is to reference a recent article they wrote that you particularly enjoyed or that got you thinking. Put that in your first sentence, so that they actually know you take the time to follow their writing.
Perhaps most importantly, make the pitch personal to their publication and their readers. It’s not just that it needs to be a great pitch about a great story, it has to be a great story for them. It has to be a great story that their readers will especially want to read. Those are the details you need to focus on and hone down clearly and succinctly.
Tell the Truth
Introduce yourself and your business in one quick line. Now is not the time for a flowery elevator pitch, this is just explaining what your business is and what you do in total layman’s terms, they may or may not be ‘into’ your industry enough to know the jargon or want to cut through it.
The next most important part is to focus on your story idea & why you are the one to help tell it. This is where you may actually add in a bit more detail that differentiates you from any other person who does what you do but wouldn’t be as great at telling this story. Why should they feature you here rather than someone else they know who ‘does the same thing’. Convince them of this (in one or two sentences, max)!
Provide bullet points on how you will tell the story, so that they can easily glance through and see what main points can be shared to create a compelling article.
Respect their time
Keep it all short and sweet. Again, use bullet points when you can, rather than explaining full thoughts in a lot of sentences. Do not let the pitch get longer than a few short paragraphs. If it is, they won’t read the whole thing, so you’re not doing yourself any favors.
Think about how you would perceive the same email coming into your inbox. Make sure it doesn’t feel spammy, over-entitled, or like more work to deal with than it’s worth. Make it easy to reply with a quick ‘yes’ without requiring a lot of choices or additional thought to go into it. It should be so unique and explained in such an obvious way, that it seems like a no-brainer that they’d want to write this story.
Be Accessible & Follow up
Offer to connect to answer questions or provide more info whenever is convenient for them. Include your phone number and mention that you’re happy to connect at any time, and state that you can also get more info to them via email very quickly.
If you don’t hear back from them immediately, follow up within 1-2 weeks. Just like how you can get distracted or busy and forget to reply to an email or tell yourself you’ll think it through more later and then never do, same goes for writers times 10, because they’re constantly getting emails they didn’t ask for that may have nothing to do with what they’re currently working on. Don’t be shy to follow up to see if they had a chance to think about your story idea and have any interest. Sometimes I’ll even offer an extra tidbit of information that I hadn’t fit into the initial email, or any other updates that may have taken place since the initial email was sent that may make the story even more applicable or interesting now. This may be a follow up, but you’re still trying to pique their interest in case they didn’t decide one way or the other yet.
If they do reply, get them what they need ASAP– they may be on deadline, and aren’t going to wait around if you don’t get them information you said you would get them right away. Remember, they can always get the quote from someone else who does something similar to you, or change the focus of the story if you don’t get back to them in time. Writers are skilled at shifting stories to be able to flesh them out based on the information and details they have. The quicker you get them details the more likely they are to use them and to feature you more prominently, even if the story is going to feature multiple people. Give yourself that advantage while showing up as a source who comes through for them. You’ll be top of their list next time they’re doing a story on a similar topic and need a quote from someone like you.
Once you have the opportunity to be in a story and build the relationship with a writer, take it as far as you can and turn this into a relationship that will result in more in the future.
Follow this basic structure
This is a basic format your pitch can take. Fill in each sentence with what would be an applicable bit of info for your business and story idea.
Subject: Hi So-and-so, (intriguing headline)
The first sentence mentions how much you have enjoyed their recent articles and mentions a specific one if you can. The second sentence outlines your story idea and how it relates to their interests, audience and publication. Then mention why you are the perfect person to work on this story with them- credentials, your background, the fact that you’re the CEO of a business that solves just the type of problem your pitch brings up, etc.
Here are some of the specifics you could touch on for this story
– List a few bullet points about what the story could touch on
One more paragraph can be used if you need to, to add that you have access to experts for interviews, can send product, would be available to chat on the phone whenever they would like, etc. Mention if there is a deadline for how long this story idea will be applicable for, or how soon you could provide all the rest of the info they will need to write the story. Ask if they have interest or space for this story, or have any other questions?
I hope to connect with you soon!
One last thing that will help you along the way once you’ve got the pitch down, is this cheatsheet on how to find (almost) anyone’s email address, for when you start reaching out to writers with your pitch!