I have numerous press and Journalist contacts that I work with. I’ve screwed up my fair share of pitches––believe me. However, I have weathered the storm and pushed through to build my database over time. I’ve done the terrible pitches and every so often I’ll here from my contacts telling me about theirs. If you can do it correctly, the results can be fantastic. Screw it up once, you’ve probably lost that person’s attention forever. Getting press contacts or trying pitch a journalist can seem at first glance difficult. It does require a certain finesse––with that said, I’ve provided a list of mistakes to watch out for and an example of the right way to do it.
When you go to pitch a journalist, grammar and punctuation matter
If you want to have some form of media regarding your company, print or otherwise, it usually starts with an initial email or direct message. If the subject your pitching them is misspelled or unclear because of grammatical errors you’ve officially been sent back to the 2nd grade. Journalists and writers take a lot of pride in their writing and they’re professionals. When you send them an email that makes you sound like an idiot, you can say hello to their trash. Don’t send them an email saying that “mediation” can be beneficial in the workplace when you meant to say “meditation”. Its idiocy is also compounded when you do it multiple times in the same email. This is a real example I’ve seen, trust me they hate it.
What we have here is a failure to communicate
Don’t pitch a journalist asking a short question or with unclear data. Seriously. Just stop. Sending an email with a random piece of data with no call to action or introduction is a guarantee they won’t answer. It’s not to say that they won’t write about it, but it’s not going to have the result you want. Not making a proper introduction or at least initiating conversation with the person is a big NO NO. On that note, blind emailing of a journalist or contributor is never appreciated, especially if they can’t tell your pitching them. If you are going to just email them out of the blue at least be concise and specific as to what your exact intention is. I wouldn’t do it, but hey, that’s why you’re reading this.
Field of expertise
Don’t pitch press contacts for the wrong industry. Asking a travel writer or healthcare journalist to cover a story about a new app or company is dumb, it makes you look stupid and there is no way around it. It’s not their audience or what they’re contracted to write about. Probably the easiest way to avoid this, just don’t pitch them. It’s as simple as spending 30 seconds to find out what they write about. I recall one of my own mistakes starting out (I didn’t know any better) and I had a client in the healthcare space. I naively pitched a journalist who covers geo political climates in China (hopefully he sees this article). Needless to say, didn’t go over well.
Stop trying to pitch everyone
Don’t just try to pitch every journalist or writer you come across. Ultimately you should be trying to build a relationship with them, you’re not trying to hook up on Tinder (if that analogy makes sense). If you want to get swiped, then keep on pitching. I’m saying you should get to know the person, do your research on what they write about. You should establish real communication so when you do have something you can call them up or shoot them an email and voila, they’ll be willing to listen. Really, it comes down to networking.
The biggest mistake with press contacts
The biggest mistake is not hiring us (just kidding, but you should anyway). No, I’d say the biggest mistake you can make is to be disrespectful of their time. Everyone thinks their busy, but in reality these people get about 200 emails a day. Believe me, I know. How is what your talking about any more important than 199 other pitches that show up in their inbox? So, if you some how manage to get them on the phone or answering you, be smart about it. This part is really just manners and a point of being polite.
Things to keep in mind
I read an article recently that said that inviting a journalist to have an exclusive interview with someone that would be of interest to them is a great way to get their attention. I would have to agree there. You essentially need to broach the conversation in such a way as to give them a reason to talk to you. Having something that they consider news worthy is vital to getting press contacts, or something that is relevant to what they write about. They need to feel like what you have to offer is of actual value. If you are going to email them or reach out to them, the above points are what you need to focus on:
- Be respectful of their time
- Don’t blindly email them with an incomplete thought or short question
- Treat them like they’re your friend
- Work to build a relationship
- Don’t just send them an email filled with data that they can’t easily sift through
If you insist on sending an email, try something like this
If you are going to pitch a journalist by email, you can try doing an intro like this. Just keep all of the above in mind when making your initial contact with the journalist.
I wanted to introduce myself. My name is (insert name) and I work with (insert company). I’ve stumbled across some of your articles in the journal and thought your piece on (insert subject here) was exceptionally well written. As it turns out, I am working with a client in that is doing some disruptive work in that space and wanted to see if you’d like to interview them. They have some information I felt you would find very interesting, providing it’s relevant to anything you may be writing about. If it makes sense to have a call, please let me know!
Look forward to chatting!
The real take away here is that they’re people, just like you. They’re doing 1000 different things throughout their day, so applying some simple manners to your email etiquette can go a long way.