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Most businesses need a little PR love in order to win the affection of their would-be customers. With a little elbow grease and patience, you can generate some buzz yourself – and this starts by writing a great pitch.
In the PR world, a “pitch" usually refers to a well-crafted email that resembles the skeleton of a news article. It is submitted to journalists to pique their interest in writing about a particular story.
Every morning, journalists wake up to hundreds of pitches in their inbox – in order to cut through the e-mails and actually get through to a journalist, think of them more like a Jedi. Your job is to become a Jedi master: emotionally intelligent, persuasive, and cool-headed.
Well, young Padawan, in order to help you through the battleground of publicity, I've enlisted the help of three Jedi-Pitch-Writing-Masters. Think of them as your Obie Wan Kenobes and check out their top tips:
Know WHO you're pitching to
“Know your audience," Kyle Erickson of Markstein cannot reiterate enough. “Know your audience's audience. Know exactly why the person you're pitching is right for the story, and let them know that you know why. Nothing irritates the media more than a misplaced pitch."
Don't waste your time and energy chasing writers who will never cover you. Before you start pitching, develop a list of journalists who have covered topics or businesses similar to yours. For example, Huffington Post covers business, but it also covers politics, entertainment, travel, technology, healthy living, etc. If you have a new app business, DON'T pitch the “healthy living” guy, DO pitch the “technology" lady. The more specific you are about who you are pitching to, the higher your chances of gaining their interest.
Finding your killer story
Everyone loves a good story and in order to get press for a new or small business, you must be creative!
“If you feel like you really have to sell your content, it's not worth pitching in the first place," says Tina Davis of Kindred Marketing Company “Come up with a more interesting angle. When you put time and thought into determining a salient angle, writing, editing, adding supplemental information and context, and targeting the appropriate contacts, you'll start to realize the value of what you have to offer and you'll stop trying to [hard] 'sell' it."
Here are a few different ways you might position your story:
As Ben Cooke of Ben Cooke Communications points out: “It's called ‘The News’ for a reason." If a certain issue pertaining to your business is being talked about in the news, jump on the bandwagon!
For example, perhaps you created a new online privacy technology and you see on the news that a Hollywood star got her computer webcam hacked into. Create a pitch talking about why that happened and how the audience can protect themselves.
“Journalists are looking for new information that will be valuable to their audience," Cooke explains. “Pay attention to news and trends so you can deliver in your pitches."
The media loves inspiring stories because they kick us in the ‘feels’.
Why are you an inspiration (and be specific)? For example, maybe you have always rocked bizarre and intricate hats, which caused a fashion statement in your community, prompting you to open your own hat store.
Whatever your business, show off your passion and tell a great story. Cause the reader to become emotionally invested in YOU (and therefore, your business).
You're an expert
If this is you, don't pitch the journalist telling them how awesome you are – listing your accomplishments. Unless you're pitching your own mother, that information is irrelevant and boring. Instead – show off your knowledge in a practical way! News websites crave stories that offer “value" to the reader. This means offering up expert tips and tricks for accomplishing a certain goal. If you're a hairstylist, maybe that is "6 Easy Summer Hairstyles" in which you show the readers how to create glamorous looks all by themselves.
If you pitch your expert tips, two different scenarios might happen:
1) A journalist might write a piece about you, including these expert tips. Here's an example:
2) An editor might respond to you and say, "Great tips! Can you please submit a byline article for our site?" In this case, you would write the article yourself and include your tips like this example here:
"Journalists love 'X' number of ways to accomplish 'Y'," advises Cooke. “Discover a small number of tips or methods for an audience is a great way to get blogs and online news editors interested in your story. Examples: 5 Ways to Write a Killer PR Pitch. 6 Daily Exercises to Get a Six Pack, etc."
Watch your words
After you've gotten your story down – don't forget to edit!
“Assume what you've written is too long, cut it down, and then rinse and repeat," says Erickson. “A good story idea can be sold with a solid subject line and a few good sentences. If the subject matter is impossible to condense that much, then limit yourself to a well-written paragraph or two and entice your target into wanting more detail."
Can't stress this enough, folks. Journalists have short attention spans and will use the force to block your email if you don't get at them on their level. Be absolutely riveting in as few words as possible.
Nail your headline
Once you have a solid story, give it a fascinating headline. You can use humor, word-play, intrigue, a relevant list, current events – whatever you have to do to entice the journalist to click. Here are some recent examples:
*See how they took a boring subject like resumes and made it sound all juicy and scandalous?
*Positive body image is a huge trend in the media and this headline captures that.
*Oooh, this is a little controversial. Now I want to click and find out WHY it's my fault!
Your headline should go in the subject line of your email; it must be compelling, as short as possible, and written similarly to article titles in whatever publication you're pitching to. Your headline is probably the most important aspect of your pitch because it is what gets the journalist to actually open your email.
I now caution you, Young Padawan. In the ever-poignant words of Yoda, “If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path as Vader did, you will become an agent of evil." You have the tools to win.
May the force be with you.
Written by Molly Reynolds