More Tips for Pitching to Journalists

Today the always-excellent Muck Rack features a guest blog post from Gelberg Communications founder Jon Gelberg on a question that will challenge PR professionals until the end of time: What’s the most effective way to pitch stories to journalists and bloggers?

As Gelberg’s headline implies, the act of pitching is really more of “a seduction”. His piece points out some of the obvious challenges inherent in the pitching process and proposes a few common-sense solutions–but this is a topic that’s always worth revisiting, so we’ll summarize.

What not to do:

  • Send impersonal mass emails (Yes! We get these all the time–and 99% of them go straight in the trash.)
  • Fail to engage with your media contacts like they are real-world humans (small touches matter)
  • Fail to follow up with the outlets that run your stories (a simple “thanks” can do wonders for media relationships)
  • A point of our own: refrain from making phone calls and leaving voicemails except as a last resort. A Reuters journalist recently said, “My biggest pet peeve is PR people who are relentless on the phone”–and we couldn’t agree more.

Keys to success:

  • Research your contacts. We understand the temptation to cut and paste a bunch of email addresses, press send and hope for the best, but writers really do appreciate knowing that you’ve spent a few minutes to familiarize yourself with their work. If possible, the simple act of complimenting a blogger on a recent post is always a great “in.”
  • Offer to help. This is one tip that many reps understand: instead of forcing your latest story or press release on a journalist, mention it and then ask them what kind of content interests their audience–you may even want to inquire about stories they’re working on and float the names of any relevant contacts.
  • Make it all about them, not you“. To us this means “avoid repeatedly pitching the same story”. Is there a chance that the media name in question just overlooked your first email? Yes. But more often than not he or she just didn’t bite–and persistence is not always a good thing, so be cautious.
  • Make it easy. We can’t over-emphasize how important this is, especially when you’re pitching to bloggers. Blogs are all about constantly refreshing content, so get your block quotes ready and try to use your email message to explain, as succinctly as possible, exactly how your pitch would appeal to the blogger’s specific audience. Customize the message!
  • Extend the relationship. Don’t give up after a single rejection–and find ways to “engage” with the contact. One way to do that is through Twitter. When you tweet a story, it’s sometimes helpful to send out multiple messages mentioning different media outlets in each one. This won’t always work, but it will definitely get the contact’s attention in most cases.

That’s it for now. We’d love to hear some thoughts from PR pros and/or bloggers, because we’re all in this together.