As part of my day job for the past 3 years, I've been pitching reporters and editors at small mommy-blogs and even top-tier outlets such as Wired. During this time, I've learned a lot about what works and what doesn't - from downright ugly and spam-tastic form-filled emails, to short and sweet messages.
Without further ado, here are a few pitch-writing tips that I think are helpful to entry and intermediate-level PR professionals:
KISS (Keep it Short and Simple)
No editor wants to read through mountains of paragraphs to get at whatever product or news you're trying to promote. The KISS Principle really applies here in terms of writing; keep your pitch to the bare essentials with no more than 150 words. It's totally fine to start drafting your pitch however long you like - in fact, I find that longer is better in this initial phase to jot down thoughts - but trim it down substantially when finalizing.
Editors and reporters love bullet points. Starting an email off with a quick sentence followed by a few key bullet points allows the reader to get a quick and dirty glimpse of what you're offering. Even better, it gives them an easy way to go back and reference things since you took the time to seperate items via a simplified list.
Personalize, and Don't be Sloppy About it
"Hi zAcH ,, I am fromNigera and would like to offer you [DOLLAR-AMOUNT-HERE] in a trust fund".
Seriously? Don't be that guy. First rule: If you're going to use a form generator, make sure that your excel/csv list has the correct grammar, spelling, and names. When you're inserting the list into your form, make sure that punctuation is correct - don't leave a nasty space in between the contact's name and comma.
That being said, you do want to personalize your email with things such as the contact's name, their outlet, and even the vertical they write about. I can't speak for every editor, but whenever I get something that's personalized and correctly formatted, I feel a little special inside.
Giveaways, Reviews, and Other Goodies
One of the toughest obstacles to face when doing traditional PR vs advertising is getting unpaid media exposure. If you're in this line of work, you probably know all too well how frustrating this can be - especially when an editor sends you their media kit containing astronomically high pricing.
Obviously the best solution to getting coverage is through an established relationship with someone at the outlet you're pitching - and if your news or product is somehwat high-profile or game-changing, you'll most likely be taking the easy street.
But if you have no real hard news or story really worth writing about, one of the biggest things that can help is offering a giveaway contest or review unit if you have sort of product. Sometimes incentives can help offset the cost of running an article, or are simply good reasons to write a story.
Wait Until They Bite
I think of PR like fishing; there's a sea full of reporters and editors, and our job is to cast out a fancy line (or in this case pitch them a story) in hopes of them biting. When fishing, you want to make sure not to give out too much bait and be patient with things.
You'll want to apply these same principles to your pitch - don't give out too much information on inital contact. Going along with rule #1, keep everything short and to the point so that you don't dilute the email with fluff. Offer a press kit or press release upon request; if the reader is interested, they'll ask for more information.
*I'm not trying to degrade writers in any way, just using this as an allegory.
I'll leave you with a basic example of how a pitch should look using the above principles. Is there something I'm missing? I'd love to hear your tips!
Magical Unicorn Cases just recently launched an innovative new product for the iPhone - a case that transports itself (and your iPhone) into the hands of an unknown nearby stranger. A few key features:
- Invades your personal privacy
- Transports itself up to 300 miles away with TGPS (Transport GPS)
- Made of high quality, heavy grade Steel
We'd love to offer you a unit for review on Joe's Blog. Please let me know if interested, and I can send you some more information. Thanks!