A lot of times as PR professionals we live and die by a story pitch. Here are some helpful tips to making sure you live more often.
Keep it short and sweet (and no more than 150 words)
Someone once advised me to write a pitch as if it would be read like Morse code is read. There’s a strong chance that if the pitch is written as succinctly as Morse code messages are, then your pitch will be read. Every editor I know is swimming in emails. Concise, to-the-point pitches are an editor’s favorite type of pitches. That means keeping the copy to no more than 150 words.
Include an image
That whole adage about a picture being worth a thousand words is especially true when it comes to email pitches. Editors tend to be visual people. Whether it’s a product, event or place, editors like seeing what you’re pitching. And visuals can complement your concisely written pitches.
Focus your pitches
There needs to be a usefulness to the story you are offering them. What makes your product different from the rest (notice I wrote “different” and not “better”; editors can quickly see through any fluff and unsubstantiated promises)? Where or what section can an editor actually use your pitch in his or her publication? Has a well-known person endorsed the product? Answer these questions in your pitch, and that just might be what an editor needs.
Concentrate on the lead time
Every publication has different lead times. Monthly magazines tend to need pitches 2-3 months in advance of an issue. Daily newspapers can be pitched a few weeks before the print date. Either way, it’ll be hard to sway any editor to say yes to including your holiday gift product when you pitch him on Dec. 25.
“No” means “maybe”
Even if the editor has said no to including your pitch in the printed publication, there’s always digital options. Whether it’s the magazine’s website or a newspaper’s electronic newsletter or social media handle, the scope of a publication has expanded beyond its print product. Online editors are always looking for new material simply because their frequency of distributing information is greater than print editors, so feed them your proposal even if it’s been turned down for the print edition.
Make sure you tailor your pitch to the right media outlet
My editor-friend at a high-end magazine constantly gets emails about dollar-store products. You know what he does with those emails? Trashes them. Know the demographic of readers each publication caters to and see if what you’re pitching is actually applicable to them. Don’t pitch just to pitch; be diligent in what media outlet should be privileged enough to receive your ideas.
Keep everything in the body of the email
An editor shouldn’t have to open an attachment to understand your pitch. Don’t make him or her go an extra step by having to open an attachment to understand the pitch. Have everything neatly written in the body of the email so an editor can see your pitch immediately.
Prep your clients for a possible interview
So let’s say the editor loves the pitch and wants to move forth with the story and interview your client. But one big problem: you didn’t prepare your client for this possibility, and he just left for a 2-week vacation with no phone or Internet access. That’s a nightmare scenario for all parties, especially you. Before sending your pitch, just make sure your client realizes that an interview is a likely scenario and he or she needs to be ready for that moment, whenever it is.
Really. It’s that simple. If you haven’t seen a reply from the editor, it’s time you follow up. Sometimes an editor needs a little reminding, sometimes he or she just didn’t have a chance to reply, or sometimes the editor didn’t even see your initial pitch. Depending on the publication, email or call for your follow-up. That just might be what keeps your idea at the tops of their minds.