By day, I’m an entrepreneur who helps 9-5ers and startups stand out in their field and get noticed by the right people.
I’m also a frequent workshop presenter and speaker on communications and personal development topics for medium sized businesses, and writer with a sweet spot for covering women entrepreneurs and small business branding.
Week after week, I receive countless pitches from entrepreneurs and publicists looking to get press. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. I don’t hold a grudge for one or two common grammatical mistakes within a pitch.
But you know what’s unforgivable for me? Mass pitch emails. I think it’s a lazy way out to get media coverage.
In fact, I delete nearly every mass pitch email I get (“Sorry, I ain’t sorry”—blame Queen Bey).
Pitching Pet Peeves
Nine times out of ten, mass pitches have absolutely nothing to do with me. On top of everything else, many of them associate me with a publication I’ve never written for.
Newsflash: Google is your BFF. And Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn are your first cousins–do your homework.
And for Christ sake, please don’t copy and paste your pitch between emails.
My other pet peeve: Lengthy emails that take too long to get to the point.
I say this with the sincerest puppy dog smile–communicate your pitch idea within the first paragraph and keep your email to 300 words or less.
Also, I don’t open a lot of attachments (many of my journo friends despise them as well). So put your press release in the body of an email.
If you have to add attachments like photos or a media kit (which I rarely read—that’s a separate post), share your files using a link to Dropbox or Google Drive. Many times people attach mega files (20+MB) to an email and it takes up too much space in my inbox and it’s simply unnecessary.
Oh and one more unforgivable thing: I detest half-assness and alternative facts.
This includes an out of date website (or even worse—no website at all), and no online social proof. For instance, if your full name, active social media presence or customer testimonials, don’t show up in Google, your credibility is suspect. I say this a lot around here.
Moment of Truth
My semi-rant is over but bear with me while a drop a few more pitch tips.
The last two pitch emails I opened came from a Publicist I had a prior relationship with and an entrepreneur who enticed me with a catchy headline and mentioned my prior articles. So yeah research and flattery will get you far in life.
Recently, I had the pleasure of serving on a panel –Pitch Perfect: The Do’s and Dont’s of Pitching to the Media.
My panel featured a few rock star women in media from Forbes, Black Enterprise, Buzz Feed and NBC digital. So if you’re ready to get press coverage for your business, check out a few more pitch tips below:
1. Pitch a problem/solution, not your company, its product or service – It’s not about you, it’s about the needs of the publications’ target audience. Make your messaging (both within your pitch and on the first page of your website) stand out by focusing on the solutions you provide for a specific audience.
2. Seek to add value – How does what you’re offering benefit the publication’s audience? Does your product or service save time or money? Can it improve someone’s daily routine? Can it help you avoid the hassle and headache?
3.Consider the timing of your pitch and make it relevant for that specific publication – Connect your story idea with current events, trends, or even a writer’s recent article. For print features, keep in mind, many publications work three to four months in advance.
4. Research the publication and their target audience – Sometimes the publications media kit, publishing calendar and the writer responsible for a specific beat, is available online. Simply Google the name of the publication + the word “Media kit.” For instance, Essence + Media Kit.
5. Build relationships with writers on social media – Social media makes it super easy to connect with writers and the publications they work for. To find out what they’re genuinely interested in, consider Twitter or Instagram.Typically people use these platforms to engage and show a bit of their life behind the scenes. Join their discussions, leave comments and retweet their articles.
Social media can also tell you a lot about a writer’s formality. While some writers may prefer a formal salutation in an email like Dear. Mr. Mrs. or Ms. Johnson, others (like me) are okay with Hi Kandia.
6. Customize your pitch and make a writer feel special – Listen, we live in the age of personalization. Follow their post on social media channels like Twitter and Instagram and include references to their articles, or conversations on social media.
7. Ask first, pitch second – Not too sure what a journalist is looking for? Send them a short and simple email to get inside their head. And some writers are even open to an invite for cocktails to discuss a story idea.
8. Send a clear and concise email free of industry jargon. Plus:
- Write the subject line as if it were the headline of a news article. But take note: Leave out names and formal titles in the headline, unless the person is well known.
- Include a media kit or photos as links to cloud storage application like Dropbox or Google Drive.
- Make it easy for journalists to do their due diligence aka fact checking. Include social proof (text and links) like testimonials, awards, etc. within the pitch.
9. Put yourself in a position to be found and stay ready for your moment – Nowadays, writers and journalists search social media for story ideas. So keep your business visible and engaged with your target audience and industry trends. Publish content regularly, be active online (e.g., Twitter Chats, webinars, YouTube Videos, and Instagram stories) and attend local events. Remember, you are a walking talking billboard for your brand—so stay ready. Your website should be fully functional and social media profiles public.
10. Be prepared for a speedy turnaround – Many times online writers have a quick turnaround. Be transparent about your availability and respond as quickly as possible.
11. Don’t forget to follow up – Allow 3-4 days for a follow-up. Include an enticing fact like a new major sponsor or statistics.
Need help packaging and positioning your story to attract media attention? No worries. I got you!
I designed the visibility masterclass to help you gain the confidence and clarity needed to take your business or brand to the next level.
Note: Parts of this article was originally published for Black Enterprise Magazine.