You are now officially a publicist, and your boss has given you the responsibility of scoring coverage for your clients. Where do you start?
Pitching can be nerve-wracking the first time around. Are you emailing the right reporter? What if you don’t know the answers to their questions? Are you doing this right?
Don’t let the “what ifs” get you down. I have been yelled at in the past, publicly called out on mistakes, and hung up on. I have scored amazing coverage for our clients in top-tier outlets and formed strong relationships because of it.
Here are a few of my pitching tips that helped me score coverage over the years. Feel free to add your pitching tips and tricks in the comments below.
Be a news junkie
One of the most important pieces of advice I have ever received is to read—and read a lot. Know everything possible about your client’s industry, the reporters covering it, and the outlets in which they are published. Read about the competitors, the trends, and the news announcements being made. By being up-to-speed with what is happening in your client’s industry, you can quickly and easily insert them into new stories and ongoing conversations. Use these trends as fodder to create a larger story in which your client can be used as a resource and thought leader in the space.
Write gutsy subject lines
Think of your subject line as the first impression. We’ve all been told 100 times that first impressions are key and if you screw it up, you are done. Provide a subject that is punchy, witty, or otherwise funny, and you are more likely to get that reporter to open the email. I can almost guarantee that reporter will delete a long, boring subject line filled with keyword jargon. Keep it short and to the point. And think: Given the subject line, would I open this email?
Keep it short and simple
I hate—hate—excessively long pitches filled with your typical “revolutionary, innovative, first-of-its-kind” nonsense that reporters will see right through. Do you want to read an email that is a three-page essay? I get a headache just looking at the text and chances are you are going to lose me after the first paragraph. Reporters feel the same way. Try to keep pitches around three short paragraphs, letting them know what your idea is and how you can help them.
Here is a lesson you can relate to from the time you were a kid. Everybody has that one friend who clearly only cares about himself and only reaches out when he needs or wants something. Don’t be that PR person, reaching out to reporters for your own gain. Position yourself as a resource for reporters to turn to when looking for a story and help them find sources that aren’t your clients.
I once helped a USA Today reporter with a cover story he was working on about couples in business together. I saw he tweeted that he was looking for couple’s therapists. I happened to know someone so I connected the two. That reporter might not take a briefing with my client every time, but I can guarantee he reads my pitches, provides feedback, and points me to the right contact whenever I reach out.
I can’t stress this one enough. PR people tend to be called out as stalkers and I can confirm that we are. There is a fine line between being a good PR person and ending up on the other end of a lawsuit for harassment. Find the balance and stay on top of people. It’s the difference between getting a great story placed and never seeing your clients name in ink.
Liz Grimes is public relations manager at Overit Media in Albany, N.Y.