How to Toss Pitches That Hit the Target
By Marsha J Friedman
I’ve been saying it for 22 years: Getting mentioned in news stories and being interviewed on radio and TV is the best, most cost-effective marketing strategy.
By positioning yourself as an expert on topics relevant to your product or book, you also gain credibility. This is what I call “Celebritize Yourself.” It’s the boost you need to rise above the competition.
But, how do you get journalists interested in what you have to say? You might offer to write an article or blog post, or provide interesting TV or radio commentary on a topic in the news. Come up with a fresh angle that will add to a news story everyone’s talking about. For example, last year a client wrote a memoir about his years in the Secret Service. Imagine the placements he could get now with all the attention on the carousing agents in Colombia. He even got a placement on my radio show!
Now that you’ve identified a news story or trend that dovetails nicely with your message and an angle no one else has thought of, all you have to do is get someone in the media to pay attention. That first step can be the hardest – if you don’t know what you’re doing.
A few weeks ago, I asked three professionals fresh from jobs in traditional media what made them pay attention – or not! – to telephone and email pitches. They came up with so many good suggestions, I shared half last week, and promised more this week.
Never one to break a promise, I now give you – as the late great journalist Paul Harvey would say – the rest of the story:
- Print journalists tend to like print, so send an email. Everyone’s different, of course, but journalists who choose print over broadcast tend to do so because they’re more comfortable with that medium. Some prefer time to think over a proposal rather than respond immediately to a cold call. Having a written pitch in an email folder may be handier than searching for handwritten notes scrawled during a phone call.
- Keep it short – the more you write, the less they read. No one, journalist or otherwise, wants to read through two pages of text to figure out what you’re asking or offering. Boil down your pitch to a succinct length, three or four paragraphs is good, with the basics. Even better – use bullets to make your points. That’s an easy-to-read format that’s much more visually inviting than blocks of dense text.
- Don’t make them work for it. Providing a link to your website, and little more, is a sure way to get deleted. I know you think you’re saving yourself time, but you’re doing it at the expense of the journalist’s time. It’s the quickest way to lose their attention. Your website may tell your story beautifully, but unless you provide a compelling reason to click through to it, no one will bother. Your pitch should include a brief reference to the issue or trend you’re plugging into; the content you can provide to give the journalist a great story or show; and a phone number where you can easily be reached. Then add that website link.
- Make sure you have an easy-to-remember website address. You should always provide a link to the site in your email, but that’s not necessarily how journalists will always access it. If they want to browse it when they have more time in the morning, or show it to a colleague, they shouldn’t have to go back to your mail for the URL. If they’re interested enough to want to check out the site, they’ll remember key words that should pop it up in a search. Having a site with an easy-to-remember name will help, as will regularly adding fresh content, which pushes it higher in the search results.
Between last week’s tips and this week’s, you should be all set to connect with the media.
But, I won’t lie; it can be frustrating. If you’re a DIY’er, remember persistence pays. However, if you prefer the help of professionals who know how to craft a pitch and have media contacts coast to coast, keep us in mind. What can be discouraging to you is a lot of fun for us.
Keepin’ it succinct,
For 20 years Marsha Friedman has been a leading authority on public relations as CEO of EMSI. Go to www.emsincorporated.com to signup to receive her free weekly PR Tips today! More resources for authors can also be found at www.publicitythatworks.com. Or call at 727-443-7115, ext. 202, or email at email@example.com.
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