Pitching to the Media? Don’t Make These Mistakes
Pitching to the media takes guts – especially if it’s not your usual way of doing things. But, if you want to get your products in front of the right people, you have to put yourself out there.
The problem is, a lot of brands flounder when they first start pitching because they have no idea what to do.
Publications have been receiving pitches for a long time (since the days of purely print) and there is an unwritten way of doing things. If you’re new to the game, chances are you aren’t clued into these rules.
Don’t worry, they’re pretty easy to learn (and most of them are common sense). To help you out, I’ve put together a list of some of the worst things you can do when pitching to the media with a few real-life examples pulled from my very own inbox.
7 Mistakes to Avoid When Pitching to the Media
1. No context, No information, No nothing
You are obviously the expert on your product, brand, or piece of news, but the journalist you’re pitching isn’t – and they’re not a mind reader.
The more information you give them, the easier it is for them to make a decision about whether they want to pick up your story or not.
Take this email that landed in my inbox:
The pitcher gives me no clue as to:
- Why I might be interested in this product
- What this product actually is
- Why they’re reaching out to me
- What they want me to do
Without any relevant context, this pitch is confusing. And guess what? It didn’t get a reply.
2. Not Personalised
Building relationships with journalists and outlets is one of the easiest ways to get your stories published.
When someone knows you, they’re more likely to cut you some slack and give your story some air time (it’s a you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours kind of deal).
Obviously, you won’t have relationships with every journalist you reach out to and, in the early stages, you might not have any relationships at all.
That doesn’t mean you can’t make a connection.
To do this, the key is to call out the person you’re contacting by name, maybe mention past stories they’ve published that are similar to yours, and speak to them like you would if you’d met them in real life.
It’s obvious this pitch I received was a mass send:
My name is splashed clearly all over my website, so someone not using it in an email seems a little lazy at best.
3. Not relevant
Journalists have a duty to provide up-to-date, relevant news to their readers. As a result, they’re constantly on the hunt for fresh narratives or stories that fit into current events.
If you’re emailing them about a Mother’s Day sale you ran two months after Mother’s Day, you’re not going to get anywhere. Hence why it’s important to make sure your news is timely and relevant.
But, more importantly, it’s crucial that you do a little digging to find out whether your story is relevant for the specific journalist or publication you’re pitching. If your story is about a new fishing rod you’ve released and you’re trying to pitch a dancing publication, you’re not going to get anywhere (obviously).
4. Not Transparent
What will the journalist get out of this?
This is a great question to ask before you send a pitch.
As well as knowing exactly what you want from a journalist or a publication, you should also understand what’s in it for the journalist.
Will they get a juicy, exclusive story? Will your story act as an add-on to a similar story they ran recently?
When pitching to the media, be clear with your expectations.
If you simply want them to link to your product in their Christmas gift guide, let them know that. If you want a full-feature story on your new founder, let them know that. When you lay out what you want right from the start, there’s no nasty surprises and it’s far easier to build a long-lasting (and fruitful) relationship.
Be clear about your expectations up front to avoid a potential PR disaster.
5. Not the Right Person
One of the trickiest parts of pitching to the media is finding the right person to contact. Knowing who’s in charge of what is a skill, and it’s one that not many brands have at the start of their PR efforts.
The thing is, a lot of brands will give up if they don’t receive a response from a hello@ email address. Instead of taking the time to find the right journalist or the right editor to pitch, they’ll simply send their pitch to the most generic email they can find and hope for the best.
This is a recipe for disaster (and a surefire way to never get your story placed anywhere). It’s well worth researching the correct person to contact. There are a couple of ways you can do this:
- Search on Twitter for “X editor” such as “fashion editor” or “X editor [publication]” such as fashion editor The Guardian
- Search Google using keywords for the department you want to reach and the name of the publication
- Search LinkedIn using the name of the publication and the department editor you want to reach
Once you’ve found the name of the right contact, you can reach out to them directly and personalise your pitch by including their name. This is far more effective than sending a generic, copy-pasted script to multiple editors and hoping for the best – and it marks the start of a budding relationship with a potential new contact.
6. Not Respecting Journalists’ Time
There’s no hard and fast rule about how long a pitch should be, but that doesn’t mean you should harp on and on for paragraphs.
Journalists today are busy.
If you want a reply, you have to get straight to the point. Don’t make the mistake of trying to explain every little detail of your pitch (that can come later). Instead, keep it short and sweet at just one or two paragraphs.
In fact, one survey showed that journalists prefer pitches that fall between just 100 and 200 words, and 22% want pitches to come in at less than 100 words.
It doesn’t give you a lot of room, but make sure you clearly outline what you’re looking for and a bit about your story without wasting too much of a journalist’s precious time.
7. Not Making it Easy
Journalists are constantly on the hunt for a good story, but if you’re handing it to them on a plate, make it as easy as possible for them to pick it up.
Include all necessary details to avoid a painstaking back and forth, and ensure you are very clear with all the accompanying information.
You want journalists to read your email, think “yes, I want to publish that”, and hit reply.
You don’t want them to get confused by your email and either resign it to their trash folder or come back with clarifying questions that you could have answered in your first email.
Get Better At Pitching to the Media
Pitching to the media is an important and unavoidable part of the PR process.
It gets your brand and products in front of the right journalists and gives you the media coverage you need to grow a loyal customer base. But there are plenty of ways to get it wrong. Avoid the mistakes we’ve listed here to make sure you’re sending successful pitches every single time.