I’ll never forget the  first time I pitched a reporter with a national publication.  Mind you, this was years ago.  I had the education and spent hours finding the correct email address to pitch.  I carefully drafted my pitch and sat back, knowing that the media opportunities would begin rolling in for my clients.   Well, suffice it to say, my pitch was a failure and I went on to fail many, many times before I discovered the secret recipe to pitching media, since that time, I have had tremendous success with cold pitching media outlets to cover my clients.  If you aren’t lucky enough to have a (good) PR person, don’t worry,  you can still pitch to the media your company!

Mistakes

You just launched a brand new startup, destined to shake up the world.  You are excited.  You just know that everyone will write about it!   You  write your pitch and make sure that you tell the journalist everything they could possibly ever want to know about the company.  Well, delete everything you just wrote.  The truth is, if the reporter does happen to open your email, they are going to briefly skim it, looking for a couple of key words.  In a perfectly pitched world, your subject line should tell them all they need to know.  How long should your pitch be?  I keep my to 6-7 sentences max.  Keep in mind, the reporter WILL contact you if they are interested.  You can include a link to the site,  but never and I repeat never, add attachments to your initial pitch.

Research your target completely.  Would you pitch a mobile car finding service to a reporter at Glamour magazine?  No!  You are sure to get on their black list if you pitch off topic and out of niche.  Take 5 minutes are skim articles they have written in the past.  It will pay off.  Know your audience and know what the reported LIKES to cover.  I have contacts, that open every single email I send them because they know that I know them and what they write about and they will possibly find something relevant to cover.

Not following through in a timely manner.   I cannot stress this point enough.  I cringe when  reporters tell me that so and so publicist or business owner didn’t follow through in time for deadline , or worse, never got back to them.  Never forget that  you need the reporter and you need the coverage otherwise you wouldn’t be pitching them.  I make it a personal policy to get back to the reporter within an hour at the most, even if it’s just to acknowledge their email and let them know what I will be following up with them.   Let’s face it, we all have smart phones, we all have our email synced up to them.  Unless it is the dead of the night or you are on a desolate island with no wifi, there is absolutely no excuse for not getting back to someone you absolutely need for success.

Resources

When I began in PR, there were very few online resources to find journalist queries.  In fact, we all purchased a book the size of a phone book with outdated contacts.   Now, in 2013, we are lucky to have so many free, online resources to use.

Here are a few of my  favorites:

  • Help a Reporter Out-  I have many times credited Peter Shankman, the creator,  with saving my career with his service.  You  will receive 3 emails a day, chock full of media requests and queries, categorized and specific.  
  • Pitching Notes– A relative new comer, they are quickly growing.  They are a great resource in finding a reporters email address and the best way to contact them.  Best of all, there are tips on how to pitch each specific reporter.
  • Source Bottle–  Australian based Source Bottle is growing quickly.  Most queries are for European or Australian based outlets, but occasionally you will find a query in the US that will fit you perfectly.  I pitched a cosmetic company client I had to a publication in Australia through them with tremendous success.   Think world-wide with them!
  • Publi Seek–They grew from a Twitter account with journalist queries to a full site, sending out an one email a day with journalist queries.
  • Radio Guest List-Another new comer, they are quickly becoming one of my favorite radio guest booking resources.  In fact 2/3 of every pitch I send out gets media interest.

Matt Villano, a respected freelance writer, offers these tips which largely echo mine:

  •  Do your homework. Blind pitches work only part of the time (if you’re lucky). Real success comes from targeted pitches that make clear you’ve done a modicum of research into whom you’re pitching and why the story works for them.
  •  Make lives easier. Nobody — especially a busy journalist/freelancer juggling multiple stories every day — wants to read a pitch of Dickensian length. If you can’t provide basics in 200 words or less, you’re not doing your job well enough.
  • Have supporting research at the ready. Trends come in threes. Once you’ve got a journalist’s attention, he or she likely will ask for evidence to support a trend. Having this data ready to roll makes everyone’s life easier. It also practically guarantees your client a placement.
Happy pitching!