If someone asks you for help or for a favor, what makes you lend a hand? Is it the relationship you have with them? Is it the request itself? Is it the way in which they asked you? These are questions that you should think about before pitching media, bloggers or a potential partner, but sadly, this doesn’t typically happen.
Why? I’m not quite sure. It could be that companies are so caught up in what they do that they don’t see why an outlet wouldn’t cover them or partner with their initiative. Whatever the reason is, it needs to change.
As someone who has a background in media, there is nothing worse than getting bad pitches. From the misspellings and wrong name to completely irrelevant information, bad pitches influence credibility in a negative way. Repeated bad pitches takes this one step further and can really hurt a company’s reputation among the groups it needs positive reinforcement from.
While media pitches are talked about the most, other pitches such as partner pitches, blogger pitches and social media pitches matter too. Social media is tremendously beneficial in breaking down barriers and creating accessibility. However, just because other brands, CEOs and members of the media community are more accessible, it doesn’t mean you can or should abuse this openness.
Effective pitching takes planning, practice, skill and time. Though there are likely many different answers across the Web, the secret is that no pitch is the same. Certain elements of the pitch, or the core message, will be the same, but how you deliver the message needs to be unique to the brand or individual to whom you’re reaching out.
To do this, you have got to do your homework. As you build out your pitch list, take a close look into who you’re thinking about pitching. What are they saying? Is your story really relevant to them? As you conduct this research, it will help you with a couple of different things. For starters, research will tell you if you are really reaching the right the people. You may start out with a big list, and after research, have it narrowed and targeted to a select group. Research will also help you structure your pitch around current trends and other events that could get you more exposure than if you had reached out blindly.
Secondly, you have to be smart about your pitch. This sounds basic, but again, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called “Abbey,” “Amy,” “Amber,” “Angie,” and sometimes names even out of the “A” family! You MUST be smart about the details. Beyond the name, be able to write a sentence with correct grammar and punctuation. If you are trying to connect with a journalist or a potential business partner – really anyone that you are trying to impress – you will quickly find that these little details matter a lot.
Being smart also does not mean stalking people on social media channels. Arik Hanson caught up with several journalists who explain what pitches do and don’t work with them. It is very telling and should definitely be taken seriously.
Thirdly, you must be sensitive to time. We live in a world where everyone is pressed for time. No one has time to read a letter. You need to get to the point quickly. We live in a Twitter-centric world where people are used to 140 characters or less. As a result, you have to make sure that your story and pitch add value.
Going right along with being smart and time-conscious, the next step in building your pitch is to be personal. This is huge. Those in the media get inundated with press releases all day long. This is exactly what you can’t do. Executives at companies receive overwhelming amounts of email as well. As a result, you have got to stand out. You know they are doing you a favor, but you have to pitch in a way that makes them feel like you are doing them a favor.
From the homework that you do on whomever you’re going to pitch, use this information to add a personal touch. If your story goes along with another story they’ve covered recently or is related to a new business venture, you have the opportunity to customize your story to fit theirs, and potentially, fill in their missing pieces.
What’s more, this is where you really need to embrace relationship-building. If you have one story worthy of getting attention, chances are you’ll have others. This is why you need to start a relationship now. You want to start a conversation, not have a one-sided promotion. To start this dialogue, you want to begin subtly connecting on social media, on articles or on matters that are important to them. These actions will help you start building credibility even before you pitch. As a result, it will give you more influence when you connect with them regarding a story. The hope is that the relationship grows and expands just like a friendship in which both sides give and take.
It is, however, very important to remember that pitching, a.k.a., relationship-building, is very time consuming. Relationships don’t happen overnight. We live in a very saturated world in which people are bombarded with marketing messages. To stand out above the noise, you must take it to a new level. In most cases, this next step is relationship-building, and the relationship starts with a conversation.