Whether running a business, launching a new product or killer feature, or organizing an upcoming event, you need as much exposure and media coverage as possible. It’s likely that you’ve done everything from connecting with others on social media to paying for ads. While those activities may have resulted in some traction, there are still many more people to reach. How can you achieve significant reach much quicker, and for free?
Pitch Reporters and Influencers
Let’s face it, word-of-mouth is not a great strategy when you want to accelerate your brand awareness. We want immediate results.
Quick and free publicity. This is what pitching reporters and influencers can generate. By leveraging a publication or influencer’s audience, you can drastically increase the exposure for your product, company, milestone, or event. It’s a no-brainer, yet many people either never attempt this strategy or completely fumble reaping zero results.
The best way to get press coverage is to pitch directly to the journalists and influencers that regularly publish on large publications or high-profile blogs. Believe me, they won’t mind, and some will openly solicit interesting ideas for articles. Publications need interesting and engaging content, so it’s your job to give it to them.
HOW? Obviously, doing research and crafting a solid pitch are part of the process. As the co-founder of a startup incubator, I have a bit of experience weeding out stand-out pitches. Instead of just saying “you should have a great pitch,” below is a guide to help you pitch influencers and reporters more effectively.
1. Research the right publications / blogs
To increase your chances of success, start by searching publications and writers whose content best matches your product or service. For example, if you want to have your product or gadget reviewed, focus on sites that actually do product reviews. A simple Google search should yield enough results to point you in the right direction.
Secondly, review your competitors to see where they have been mentioned. You can use several tools such as Moz, Ahrefs, or SEMrush to identify backlinks. Add the results to your list of potential sites to contact as they’ve already demonstrated a willingness to write about your industry or product(s).
As you create your publication list, don’t worry about it being too long. For example, 100 records is not considered a lot. In fact, the more, the better as you may not get responses from each site. After completing the list, spend an hour to rank or sort them based on their domain authority / difficulty. This will be useful to sequence your outreach.
2. Get to know the journalist / influencer
The next step is to identify journalists at the publications you want exposure from. It takes some grunt work and research to find the right journalists, but the rewards are well worth the effort.
Before making a pitch it’s a great idea to learn more about the reporter or influencer you will contact. Make it habit to connect with writers, journalists, and influencers, whom you should be following anyway. Instead of a weak connection that is easily forgettable, engage with these influencers both online, and if possible, in person. Read their work, share it, compliment / comment on their work. Having a pre-existing relationship with journalists or influencers is the one factor that will generate the highest likelihood of your pitch being well received.
However, if you find yourself pressed for time or with a lack of connections, you can still make a good impression with journalists. Here’s how:
- Find the experts. Let’s say that you’re a software company and you’re planning to release a new game. Your first task is to browse various online publications, newspapers, and blogs. Go to their technology or software section and sniff out the contact details of the reporter responsible for these sections.
- Keep it relevant. Ensure that the reporter or influencer has a history of covering stories about your niche. Don’t pitch a tech article to a fashion blogger. When identifying a relevant reporter or influencer, you should be able to answer the following questions:
- Why choose this journalist or influencer?
- Why should he/ she write about your company?
- What’s so unique about your story?
- Use creative ways to contact them. If you can’t contact them via their website, look at their social media bios for contact information or instructions on their preferred method for pitches. Keep in mind that if an influencer does not openly use a certain network for professional purposes, it’s best to take a cue from them and avoid sending your pitch via that network.
- Take an interest in their work. By following your intended recipient and paying attention to their recent stories or questions they are asking, you’re familiarity will help to create a relevant pitch. It will also help you to learn more about their style and validate whether the influencer is a good match for your company.
- Be social. Strike up conversations with him or her on social media. Engage. If a reporter notices that you regularly retweet his stories and interact on social media, he’s more likely to open your email. By establishing familiarity, you are paving the foundation for a long-term relationship. This takes time so be genuine, and start connecting now.
- Standout by taking an extra step: To increase the chances of them seeing your pitch, after sending them an email, let them know on their social accounts. This will help them create a mental association with both your social persona and the person behind the email. Sure, they receive tons of emails, but not many will receive social mentions coupled with emails.
Keep in mind that you have a dual purpose which is to get your story published and establish a relationship with a journalist or influencer. If your current story is not of interest, a genuine effort to connect and provide value may come in handy in the future. Who knows, you may launch a new product in the future that is of interest to this journalist or influencer. Just be mindful that you are building bridges. If your story does get published, stay connected to the influencer as there’s a high likelihood to work with them again.
3. Creating an effective pitch
To ensure your pitch has a greater chance of becoming a published story, below are some guiding principles:
- Be valuable. Creating an effective pitch is somewhat similar to identifying gaps in content. It’s important to recognize that publications are always in need of content. The key is to identify what content they need and how you can fill that void. More often than not, people craft pitches from an “I am” perspective. I recommend leading with what value you can provide or how your pitch meets their need.
- Avoid fluff. Get to the point and skip the buzzwords, hyperbole, and rambling. Pitches that are overly wordy have a lower chance of achieving the intended result. Firstly, if it takes too long to explain yourself in a few sentences, it’s likely not something worth reading. Secondly, journalists and influencers receive hundreds, if not thousands, of emails so filtering through them takes a considerable amount of time and effort – make it easier.
- Paint the picture. A good pitch answers the 5 W’s of your pitch (who, what, when, where, why). If you’ve got a new product or major announcement, attaching a ready-made press release or a few paragraphs outlining how the story could be written can go a long way.
- Be natural. Instead of using industry-specific words, simplify your writing by using natural (conversational) language.
- Editorial courtesy. Give reporters or influencers enough time. If your story is time-sensitive, then it’s best to make that clear and provide a date at which point it will become outdated. Journalists typically need at least a few weeks. On larger publications, it’s almost certain that the journalist adheres to an editorial calendar so additional time is necessary. It’s not unusual for it to take a month before a story is published on a site.
- Do the leg work. Not providing facts and figures that support your pitch. While journalists will do their own research, save them time by providing useful, unbiased research, stats, and assets, to expedite their writing process.
4. Writing the e-mail
Now, let’s focus on the aspects of the email itself.
- Subject line -Be specific and brief. Avoid click bait vying for attention.
- Body – keep it as short as possible – a few sentences should do the trick. Personalize your email to each journalist or influencer. Make a strong case for why the story is important and a good fit for their publication. The following is a sample outline for the body of an email pitch:
- Introduce yourself
- Reference their work or your knowledge of what they write about
- Articulate the 5 W’s of your pitch
- Reinforce why the story is perfect for their audience
- Provide contact info – email, phone, website, and link to social networks (if applicable)
- Check your spelling. Check it again! Getting their names right is of utmost importance. Being unaware that Richard is actually Ricardo could spell doom to your pitch. Believe it or not, this mistake is more common than you think!
- Attachments – Avoid attachments so that your email is not inadvertently blocked or marked as spam. Instead, provide accessible links to the files you wish to send using Google Drive or Dropbox. This may include press releases, media assets, or other downloadable to support your pitch.
- Time your emails – Right Inbox is great tool for this. It will automatically send your emails at the specified time to ensure your not sending your emails in the middle of the night for journalists in different timezones. Ideally, send your emails between Tuesday – Friday from 8AM – 11AM. This infographic by SendGrid (from 2012) provides compelling data on the best days and times to send emails. Reporters surveyed prefer to be pitched via email in the early morning. However, due to the large volume of weekend mail, the participants also suggested to wait until Tuesday, so that they can clear their inbox on Monday.
- Mass Mailings or Bcc: – Unless you want to significantly decrease the likelihood of success, don’t send mass emails. While it takes more time, try to personalize send emails individually. This also means you shouldn’t bcc: your intended recipients.
- Outsourcing – Absolutely, do NOT outsource email outreach. These touch points and relationships are something that should never be outsourced. A journalist is more likely to want to hear directly from the person pitching the story rather than their intermediary.
- Follow up – Don’t be afraid to follow up on your email if you haven’t received a response. I recommend waiting at least 5 days after sending your pitch. As someone who receives hundreds of emails, I am well aware how difficult it is to manage a large inbox. Don’t automatically assume your pitch has been rejected as the e-mail may have been buried under countless others.
Ultimately, journalists or influencers write for their readers. By demonstrating value and an interesting angle, you’ll have a greater chance of getting your story published on multiple publications.
So, what are you waiting for? You’ve got a lot of work to do, get to pitching!