In an unofficial survey of local editors, I found they deleted, on average, a total of 60 emails each day without reading them. Most of them with a headline such as this:
MEDIA ALERT: RDC 10 to Replace Rival GTR 7 Lift Kits in Area Locations.
The Next Google Changes the Internet
Local Company Gives Money to a Charity (photo included by the way it is giant check with a grip-and-grin that we believe should run at full size on the cover)
They are pitches. Or attempts at pitches. I have been on both sides of this equation. After spending six years as an editor, I now pitch editors on behalf of clients and as a freelance reporter.
Pitching media is not for the faint of heart. It is essentially a sales job – though few like that analogy. And it is often one of the most misunderstood practices in the media/public relations world.
The idea is this: The people responsible for filling pages, air or digital space with content are always on the lookout for good stories – ones that their audience will care about. A pitch is an attempt to grab their attention and place a story in their chosen medium.
It seems simple enough. But the most common questions I would get when an editor and ones that I field from clients often involve pitching. What does the media care about? Why are my competitors featured, but I am not? Should I attach a press release? Do you know someone or know someone who knows someone at that magazine? Should I send a fax? (I really got that one)
There are not many easy answers. However, to make sure your pitch does not end up in the unread trash file, you can start with what not to do.
Have nothing to say.
There is a correlation between overeating at meals and obesity, you say? Your company has redesigned its website to make it better for users? Essentially there is no news here. What you have to say needs to be unique and have some reason that people should care. I composed a blog previously regarding how the media does not care about your story. In short: your pitch needs to answer: What is in this for the media audience? It needs to have depth and serve that audience first – before it serves just you. The media does not serve you. Media serves readers/listeners/followers.
Attempt to grease the gears.
This is perhaps the most insulting thing you can do. A pitch should have merit on its own. And while relationships matter, relationships do not get placement of news or features. There has to be something of value for listeners, followers or readers. Attempts to recall friendship or advertising relationships cheapen the pitch. Would you be more likely to listen to someone you know over a stranger? Of course. But if the merit of the pitch is not the center of the discussion, then editors will want to take a shower after talking to you. For the most part, media people are highly ethical, and this approach is offensive.
“I hope you don’t mind me emailing this to you, but…”, “I know I called you about this but I just…”, and other sentences do not instill confidence in the editor. Don’t be clever or self-effacing. If it is a worthwhile idea, which it should be, then just out the idea. Give them what they need: “I have a story that I believe would be interesting to your listeners. Here it is.” Give them the why followed by how, what and whom. That is it. The wording will vary, but the idea here is that nothing will happen if you don’t believe in it.
Attach a bunch of stuff
They will not read the press release. You can attach it, but they won’t read it. The most important thing you can communicate is the why. Do it in a quick paragraph and send background if they want it. That is it. The press release you made into a pdf and those high resolution photos will at best go unviewed and at worst become an annoyance. Send them if the media would need them later and let them know more information and photos are available. Just don’t lead with them.
By the way, if you would like more information for your background use, just click here and you can get this entire blog post sent to you via PDF attachment. Don’t worry. It is ginormous. And it will slow down the most robust of email server.