Pitching Pet Peeves: Learn What NOT To Do
Reporters, editors and producers are busy people. Full schedules and even fuller inboxes make it very hard to get their attention (one of my media contacts told me she gets 100 press releases every day….EVERY DAY!) You’ve got to be strategic.
When pitching a story to a media contact, you want him/her to be madly in love with your idea; not just mad. But when you do things like include attachments, neglect to do your research or ignore deadlines…you might as well send the email directly into the trash yourself and skip the middleman.
Hopeful Pitching: Sending a mass email with a generic press release to all of your media contacts and waiting for coverage.
Helpful Pitching: Sending an intriguing idea to a specific reporter who covers this type of story. Then working your butt off to help them craft something amazing!
You want to help the reporter tell a great story, help the audience learn something new and help your client get their message out. There’s a reason it’s called Earned Media: you’ve got to WORK for it.
To help you with your own media pitching, we asked a few of our media contacts for a few of their pet peeves when it came to pitches.
Free Advice from a Freelancer
Erica Sweeney is a freelance writer and editor with more than a decade of experience. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Huffington Post, Teen Vogue, Realtor.com, Men’s Health and Parade. Here is her advice.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better. I write for lots of big publications, but also a lot of smaller, lesser-known ones that may be niche or industry-specific. Appearing in any publication, big or small, can be good.
It’s Not All About You. It seems like many people want to be profiled in a publication, rather than be part of a larger story as a potential source or industry expert. It’s far more likely to get your name and credentials in an article about a broader issue.
Not Understanding How the Media Works. I could write a book about all the weird things that people have said and done during interviews. I record every interview, and I've had sources not want to be recorded and then get really mad when I cancel the interview. I also had someone tell me DURING AN INTERVIEW that my story didn't make sense because all I was doing was asking him questions (not sure what they thought an interview was).
No, You Can't Read the Story Before It's Published. This is a huge thing, and I get asked this all the time! Most publications have policies against letting sources read stories before they're published. Good reporters always ask for clarification if they don't understand something.
Expectations from an Editor
Jess Ardrey is editor of Little Rock Soiree and manages content creation for their website and multiple e-newsletters. Here is her advice.
Know Your Audience. The fastest way to get me to delete a pitch email is to see that you have no idea who we are and who our audience is. At Soirée, we cover culture and society for readers in the Little Rock metro. If you pitch me a bull-riding competition in Jonesboro, not only will I delete your email in a heartbeat, but I'm less likely to open your emails in the future. Find the outlets who are speaking directly to your target audience and pitch them, not just anyone with a media presence.
Sweat the Details. If you provide all the pieces to the puzzle -- for example, the date, location, purpose of an event -- you're much more likely to get a positive response. Plus, if you include high-quality photos I can publish online, you might become my new best friend.
Deadlines Matter. On the print side of things, it's crucial that you have some concept of our general timeline. Print publications plan content months in advance, but we often get pitches for great stories when the issue has already gone to press. There's no such thing as pitching too early!
For additional media pitching tips, check out our other Earned Media blog posts.