WHEN-to pitch

do you have perfect pitch?

by CeliaSue Hecht

Many people want to get published in newspapers, magazines, newsletters, books, blogs or various places online. You probably have heard that writing a press release will get you some badly needed publicity for your business.  Yet, you might not have the budget to hire a top Public Relations agency (for $5-10,000 a month). Perhaps your budget cannot sustain hiring a PR manager and you just don't have time to write press releases and attend to the media yourself. Never mind be able to send pitches to the media on a regular basis. The good news is that these days, the media are online and you can learn how to connect with journalists and bloggers. If you don't have time for that, you could always hire a freelance writer/publicist. If you want to play the game, you have to know the rules. 

Here are my tips on how to successfully pitch the media.

1. You've gotta have news. Before you pitch anyone, you have to be seen as credible and an expert in your industry. Plus, you have to know what journalists and bloggers consider news. In the first paragraph, give them the who, what, where, when and how of the event, book, product, service. Sum it up short and sweet. Each media outlet has different needs but be universal. There are some topics that are pretty much evergreen, across the board that work. One possibility for some local blogs and newpapers: are you involved with your community? Do you sponsor charity events or donate products and/or services to the local charity? Are you willing to let the media sample your products/services? If so, you're probably going to get raved about in a good way online and in print.  If your product/service is all that you say that it is and more.

2. Send info to the actual reporter or editor, rather than the publication. You must do research. You cannot just send via distribution services or letter to the editor at your local paper. These will limit your distribution and more than likely, send your press release to the trash. You can buy expensive directories for finding media such as Cision's (like PR agencies do), spend hours doing the research or you could hire an experienced freelance publicist to do the work for you. A smart/savvy freelance publicist will know who to send your releases to or have the knowledge how to find out quickly.

3. Begin by building a relationship. A step ahead freelance publicist will already have built up relationships with media people who trust that s/he will send them news and expert sources. Reporters/editors are much more likely to accept a pitch from someone with whom they already have a relationship. If not, a smart freelance publicist knows that they have to become a resource for media,  so they will learn first what the specific media person wants and deliver it.

4. Pitch on topic. If the pitch goes to the correct media person but is off topic, you will get ignored or worse, put on a blacklist. Customize and tweak each pitch for each editor/ reporter. Proofread and avoid using jargon. You must have the who, what, where, when and how summed up short and sweet in the first paragraph. If you don't, gather up all the info together until you do and then send. If you're pitching a product, include the specs, sizes and prices. Include a link but don't expect the link to get the job done for you. Busy reporters, writers, editors do not want to pull teeth in order to get your info, they will move onto the next prospect. No secrets. You can be alluring, provide links to websites, enticing, but don't make the media person do your work for you or they will say bye bye.

5. Boring blah blah blah copy won't make the news. Be short, sweet, to the point AND make the news interesting, exciting and entertaining.  You only have 30 seconds to sell your info. Your headline and first sentence/paragraph must be compelling, sparkle and shine. Each release should be no more than 300-500 words (one page). As they say in the news biz, dog bites man is not news, but man bites dog is. Start off with a quote by a famous person, or a wild statistic that proves your point. And use some Search Engine Optimization if you plan to post your press release online. This way, the search engines will send media people to you, too.

6. Use Visual graphics.  Provide images and video that add to what you've written. Pictures=1000 words, you get my drift.

7. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. Just as in real estate location, location, location is key, so is follow-up. Don't annoy the media, don't ask lots of questions, you must tell your pitch in 30 seconds to attract attention. And be sure you know what you're talking about. There is nothing worse than someone who calls up a busy editor/reporter on deadline and then shows off with fancy words that mean nothing. When you really know your stuff, you should be able to translate it for regular people. Same goes for your freelance publicist. If they don't have a clue what you do, they cannot do their job for you.

8. Send your releases on a regular basis. One way to build relationships is to be consistent. Send out a release once a month, once a week, whatever works for your business. Once in a blue moon will not establish trust nor credibility. You are getting to know the media and more importantly, they are getting to know you. People want to do business with those they know and trust, just like in life. 

9. Put your contact information at the top of the pitch/press release and on your website.  If it's an event, make it like an invitation...

What: Your one-line pitch

When: Date and time

Where: Your venue, address, phone number

10.  Local and national. If it's a national story for a national publication, you can pitch the story to your local media, too. The local media are searching for people in your immediate area to interview. Why not you?

Pitching the media is not easy. It takes research, a newsworthy relevant pitch, and excellent PR and writing skills. If you have had luck pitching the media using these tips, please do tell.  How did you do it?  If not, contact me to discuss how I can assist you. Call 702-225-8206 or email me.

Examples of lousy pitches:

l.  25-40 lines of all glomped together text. take a breath, please. too much info, and paragraphs between items, please. Or use bullet points.

2. ALL CAPS, which is the eqivalent of yelling. Next.

3. Dear Editor, subject line: press release, gee, now that clarifies everything. Moving on.

4. I did this and I did that or CEO did this and CEO did that, 20 years ago, old news. why should anyone care about this? 

5. I asked for people to send me pitches about eco friendly travel in the spring/summer and received pitches about a vacation rental house that rents out bedrooms (three), obscure locations that are difficult to get in and out of, snow and skiing opportunities in Utah, Colorado and other winter getaway places, and a chain hotel that offers no green amenities nor certification.

6. For another article, I asked for gifts, some responses were unintelligible, could not understand at first glance what the heck they were pitching, many had links where I was supposed to go but nothing about the product which gave me no incentive to click on the links, a couple had bad links, got error messages, many had no prices/fees, one refused to answer questions I had and just told me to call (nope) and a few were just completely off target with what I asked for.

7. Some of the pitches were for similar products. When asked one person to tell me the difference between their product and another, they said they'd call me. Nope. Just tell me the difference, please. Answer my question online. Then if I decide I want to talk with you, I will let you know.

8. Attached 5-10 huge graphics that took forever to download and messed up my mail program. Growl.

9. A couple sent two or three of the same pitch and/or wrote to follow-up to see if I wanted to talk. Give me a few minutes, please. I just received 100 or so pitches. It's going to take me time to get through them. If you have not heard from me in a week or two, then I probably am not interested. But you never know. I always try to let people know but not all reporters, writers and editors do. Sometimes they will surprise you with a link to their article with you in it (I just received a few like that). Yes, I pitch, too. Why not.

10. Totally off-target and clueless.  I write about pets, business, travel, romance, eco friendly gifts, and mind/body/spirit topics and you send me a press release or pitch about the wonders of the pharmaceutical/biotech industry, financial info about the latest stock market winners, sports info, an invitation to travel to some obscure faraway place difficult to get to and certainly NOT pet friendly, and it is a place no one has ever heard of or political info about an issue or candidate that I would never in a million years vote for or be interested in.

11. really, you answer my question with a question, or expect me to decipher your code infused text, how about doing YOUR job and not expect me to do it for you.

12. Send me a link to a website filled with hundreds of gifts and expect me to pick and choose. How about sending me 2-3 selections appropriate for the article instead of asking me to wade through your website for you.  Again, DO YOUR JOB.

13, Lucky thirteen. Someone started the pitch with an insult. Good way to build relationship.  Not.

14. I was in the process of writing a product review about a product I liked, but when I went to the website, I could not find the person's name or contact information anywhere on the site. Please don't play hide and seek with the media. We just don't have time to play detective.

Lousy pitch:

Dear Writer, freelance,  (gee, it is obvious that you sent this out to a few zillion people, why bother with a personal pitch, making sure you don't even know my name, who I am or what I write about, how endearing of you)...

I am writing to you about one of my 400 clients family kurplunkit business in whogivesapoopaboutit town in the middle of nowhere that no one ever heard of and thought you would be interested in writing an article about them because everyone in town thinks they have an interesting history story. The website is poopaboutit.com where you can find out more about anjestors that  date back ten generations. (photos attached of Ma and Pa and Great Ma and Pa and Great Great Ma and Pa).

The kurplinkunit business is booming, too. They offer 100 different kinds of kurplunkits and each one of them is unique. Please look through there catalog (attached). My client will be hapy to tell you more about the kurplunkits, I cannot because I don't know a thing about them.

We can set you up with an interview with Ma and Pa any time you'd like to chat. And they can tell you all about the kurplunkits. 

Now, please let us know which publication you are with and when you will be writing about this happy little family and business and they will be glad to offer you a visit any time you wish. They have tours from 6 am to 3 pm est only on blue moons.

And if you're not interested in them, please tell us what you are interested in and what you write about and I am certain that we can come up with someone of our clients for you to interview so I can pretend to be doing my job.

They offer no contact information either on the website or on this email.

thank you.

Yours in somebody's name,

Sally J. PR Company

Perfect pitch:

Short and sweet

WOW, gotta read subject and/or first line... ie, wanna take your loved over a rainbow, fly them to the moon, or get their favorite celebrity to sing them a song?

I work for The ABC Company and here are a couple of ideas for gifts. We sell unique, interesting gifts (specifics) at these prices. Not only does the owner create but they give to specific charity, fly planes to Africa or something equally unique, and how they came up with idea for gifts. Ways people can use gifts.  Available at these retail outlets and online.

Check out our website at abccompany.com. Love a chance to tell you more!

We are willing to send out samples. (if/when appropriate).


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