Top 5 PR Pitches That Rocked My Socks Off

3 Apr

Many of the pitches that I receive from PR professionals are irrelevant to my work, but every now and then, a gem of a pitch will surface in my inbox. Great PR people know how to put together a fitting pitch. Some of the essential elements of a great pitch include:

  • Relevancy: Nobody wants to read an email that doesn’t apply to them. Instead of sending blanket pitches to everyone in your address book, make an effort to understand the coverage area of each journalist you contact. That way, you’ll be more likely to strike a positive chord when you send out related news.
  • Succinctness: We’ve all heard of the elevator pitch. If you can sell your product or idea in just a few sentences, you’re armed to pitch it anywhere, even in only 15 seconds or so. Use that same philosophy with emails. Keep the pitch under three or four sentences, and you’ll save yourself and your reader a lot of time.
  • Directness: Assume that your reader knows nothing about the product or service you are pitching. Furthermore, explicitly state why the product is a fit for coverage on his or her site. When you clearly explain why his or her readers would be interested in the news, you make it easier tp visualize why it is (or isn’t) a fit.

Below are five examples of great pitches that I’ve received over the past year as a journalist at Mashable, a social and digital news site. The pitches are listed with the subject lines of the emails and include a few pointers about what made them so effective.

If you’re interested in what doesn’t work, check out my recent piece on the “Top 8 PR Pitch Phrases I Hate.”


1. I Loves Exclusives: “Exclusive for Tues – Social Breakup research”


The sexiest word in PR language is “exclusive.” When I receive an email with the word “exclusive” in the subject line, my eyes light up and I click with glee to see what could be in store for my next piece.

Not every “exclusive” pitch is a fit, but it is always impressive when a PR professional takes the time to choose one media outlet to give the honor of reporting first on a piece of news. My day gets a little brighter when I am the reporter on the other end of an exclusive pitch, whether it’s a fit or not.

Cybele Diamandopoulos of FOLIO Communications Group recently sent an exclusive pitch regarding a recent social media study. The pitch was actually addressed to another Mashable editor, but it was forwarded my way, as it was a better fit for my coverage area (business and marketing).

The pitch was a perfect fit for Mashable as it outlined the top reasons why consumers unsubscribe via email, Facebook and Twitter. Naturally, I read on.

Diamandopoulos’s email was enhanced by the fact that she outlined a few key findings from the research and noted that the full release would come packed with infographics, which would add visual appeal to the story.

Resulting piece:Top Reasons Why Consumers Unsubscribe Via E-Mail, Facebook & Twitter


2. Embargoes Welcome: “EMBARGOED GOWALLA INFO – SUNDANCE”


When an exclusive on a story isn’t possible, the next best thing is an embargo.

A news embargo is a request from a source that a particular piece of news not be published until a certain date and time, or under certain specified circumstances. Embargoes enable a journalist to reduce reporting errors by giving him or her enough time to research a news item before the agreed upon publishing time.

The downside to an embargo is that other news outlets are also given the heads up on the news. On the positive side, though, if the embargo is kept by all outlets, no one has the advantage of “getting the scoop first.” Sadly, there are a number of media companies out there that don’t honor embargo times and decide to publish prior to agreed times. In a perfect world, that type of behavior would be punished by PR professionals, who would then withhold future news from perpetrators. It appears that PR pros aren’t cracking down the whip, though, as the same publications continue to break embargoes.

I always look forward to receiving pitches from Frank Filiatrault of Allison & Partners. I have never received a pitch from him that wasn’t a fit for our site. This is a huge accomplishment, as most of the pitches I receive are irrelevant to our site’s core topics.

Filiatrault usually sends embargoed press releases complete with related images and a personalized email about why he’s sending the news to Mashable.

When he pitched an embargoed piece about a recent partnership between Gowalla and Sundance, he included a bullet point list of the key details. When I took on the piece, he was quick to send along the full press release and answer all of my clarifying questions.

Resulting piece:Gowalla Teams Up With Sundance Film Festival


3. Readers Come First: “Lot18 Funding Announcement (w/ Mashable invites)”


Mashable readers are the most important factor in all decisions that I make when choosing stories, writing and editing. I constantly ask myself, “Is this what our readers want/need?”

As a result, it is imperative for PR professionals to directly call out why a particular story is of value to our publication’s readers. In some cases, that means simply stating why the story is a fit for our audience. In other cases, it can mean offering our readers a perk that they won’t find elsewhere.

When Snooth Media‘s Engagement Manager Jesse Chemtob pitched me on the launch of Lot18, a sample sale site for wine, he offered up 1,000 invitations for Mashable readers. Being that Lot18 is exclusive and requires that hopefuls be invited by existing members, Chemtob’s offer was a pretty sweet deal for our readers.

Even better, Chemtob’s email was a total of five sentences in length to make it easy to digest. He attached the press release for further details.

I was happy to write the piece, as it was a fit for our site and had added value for our readers. Apparently it was a hit — within a few hours, all 1,000 invites were gone.

Resulting piece:New Private Sale Site Targets Wine Enthusiasts [INVITES]


4. Multimedia Resources Appreciated: “eBay and Facebook collide for eBay Group Gifts!”


Stephanie Luu, formerly of Edelman Digital and currently with Ogilvy’s 360° Digital Influence Group, pitched me on the day that eBay’s Group Gifts product launched.

While the pitch wasn’t an exclusive or embargoed, it was relevant to Mashable‘s coverage and was very succinct. Luu explained the implications of the launch and outlined key details about the product, while also including a YouTube video which explained the product thoroughly. The video was a critical piece in answering some of the questions that I had about the product.

Extra resources, such as videos or product screenshots, are usually quite useful. I recommend sending them alongside a pitch, as long as they help showcase a product’s offerings and don’t clutter up the email.

Resulting piece:eBay + Paypal + Facebook Connect = Group Gift-Buying


5. Straight From the Source: “Mashable and Altimeter’s Upcoming Report”


In a four-sentence email, Altimeter Group‘s Industry Analyst Jeremiah Owyang piqued my interest in covering an upcoming report. His email began, “Are you interested in having a sneak preview of Altimeter’s next report (next week)? I’m open to letting Mashable have the exclusive if it makes sense.” The following two sentences explained the premise of the report. Easy peasy.

Key words: next report, sneak preview, exclusive

Not only was this a highly targeted exclusive pitch, but it came directly from Owyang, one of the analysts working on the report. Granted, not everyone has time to pitch his or her projects — that’s where PR professionals come in. But when an analyst has the time to contact a journalist directly, it makes communications easier, as there isn’t a middleman (or woman) to communicate through.

Owyang sent me the report in its drafted form and we set up an interview to go over any remaining questions I had. It’s as easy as that, folks.

Resulting piece:HOW TO: Optimize Your Social Media Budget


Conclusion


There are a lot of mediocre PR pros out there, but I’ve been lucky to work with a handful of talented individuals who truly do make my job easier. Their pitches are always targeted, succinct and clearly written.

The above five examples represent some of the best pitches I’ve received over the past year.

Let me know which pitching tips you’d add in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Sarah G…

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26 Responses to “Top 5 PR Pitches That Rocked My Socks Off”

  1. Jess October 2, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    Hi Erica!

    This is a great, easy guide. I’m just starting out in PR and this is invaluable! It’s awesome to hear what journalists like and pick up on. I will be putting these into use very soon -fingers crossed it works!

    I’m heading over to your ‘Top 8 PR Pitch Phrases I Hate’ article to make sure I don’t indulge in any of the deadly sins!

    Thanks again! =)

  2. Eman B Fendi May 11, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

    I loved this. Thank you!

  3. Neha February 16, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    You are seriously dumb. Only freebies and just the obvious matters to you. you wud want the PR professional to give you all the eggs, so that you can just sit on them and voila before you know each one has a chicken each for food. That ain’t happenin woman! Atleast not everyday and you leave all those diamonds in the rust in your quest for the obvious. Pathetic!

    • ericaswallow February 16, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      I think you’ve misunderstood what I’m advocating here: if you are a PR professional that wants a story written, give the journalist exactly what he or she is looking for. I’m not saying that journalists will write exactly what you tell them or that they only care about these pitches. In fact, most of the pieces I write are not from pitches, but from my own ideas and interest areas.

      The point for a PR professional is to make the pitch simple, so that a writer understands what is being pitched. The journalist, then, will take it from there, crafting the details of the angle and story.

      And might I suggest one thing, Neha… it’s not wise to call a prolific journalist “seriously dumb” and insult her without knowing the full story, especially when you are a PR professional (according to your LinkedIn profile): http://in.linkedin.com/pub/neha-sharma/12/900/416. You may want to rethink that strategy, as I don’t think it’s a fruitful one.

  4. moniquedinor November 12, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    Great article Erica. Very insightful and good to hear your perspective of what works and what doesn’t!

    • ericaswallow November 12, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

      Thank you, Monique. I’m glad my perspective was helpful for you.

  5. Odile Beniflah November 1, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Very cool post and yes, exclusivity works! I got immediate answers twice when I used it.

    One question: when you are new to PR, target an important media, don’t have a relationship with any journalist yet and see that a few who could be interested, should you:
    – write to each of them separately to introduce yourself (but they may think it’s spam if they find out you wrote to their colleagues as well)
    – write to all of them together and hope one will react (but they may think you don’t know them)
    – write to one at a time and wait for an answer (but you may loose potential coverage from the others)

    I would love your advice and I look forward to your next skillshare in NY!

    • ericaswallow November 1, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

      Hi, Odile. Given your example, the best option is to write to each of the relevant journalists separately once you have relevant news for them. The best way to get on a journalist’s good list is to introduce great content.

      I hope to see you at my next Skillshare class. I haven’t chosen a date for November yet, but I’ll let you know when I do!

  6. sylviacyj October 12, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    Erica, thanks a lot! I am new in PR area and confused about how to start my career, your bolgs give me many thought and help when I wrote my first pitch assignment. Time is limited, so we all prefer things succinct especially readable in our smartphone. And curiosity is human nature, so stories exclusive and embargoed are much more attractive and valuable. Audience is the final target so messages should come to their points. But how about a startup to promote itself when it has no relationship with reporters? I know building relationship is essential for a PR professional, but how can we get started?

  7. Rosalie Morton June 28, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    Great post and GREAT comments. I loved this from Andrea, “The trick is breaking away from the norm (and having the confidence to do so,) focusing on a couple of great pieces Vs lots of little ones, and knowing, really knowing, what makes your key journos tick.”

    I have to say I used to be so intimidated. If you think outside the box and keep it short and sweet and never be afraid to pick up the phone, odds of being picked up get better and better.

    Write more on here, Erica!

    • ericaswallow June 28, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

      Thanks, Rosalie. You’re another great publicist I’ve encountered. You do keep it short and simple, and you use HARO well, which is a huge plus. I guess I should write a post about great HARO pitches, actually, because there’s an art to that PR niche, too!

  8. Tolumi Adamson May 31, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    Great article and very useful advice on how to make your pitch emails stand out. Bits of it are just common sense, unfortunately, these days common sense isn’t really that common.

  9. Leo Widrich May 8, 2011 at 5:56 pm #

    Erica,

    This is a fantastic post that helps me a great deal. I always wondered how reaching out to large news sites would be most effective.

    Keeping it short and to the point is something shining through at each of your 5 points I believe.

    That exclusivity is important was always clear to me, that is THAT much of a make or break wasn’t. Thanks for pointing it out, it makes a lot of sense.

    Let me try my best of implementing your advice Erica, I am sure it will make a big difference. Thanks.

    • ericaswallow May 9, 2011 at 9:47 am #

      Thanks, Leo. Glad I could lend some advice! Hope it works out for you.

      • Leo Widrich May 12, 2011 at 5:32 am #

        Erica! What can I say? It WORKED. After writing about 10 unsuccessful emails I kind of thought “It can’t be the product, it kicks ass and users love it – it must be my approach writing!”

        Turns out it was. After reading your post about 5 times I wrote another email and in the very first instance it got a reply and a post: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/take_the_hassel_out_of_tweet_scheduling_with_buffe.php

        Thank you SO much for this, since then I read your post about 3 more times, I can sing it in the shower now!

        If I ever get a chance to meet you in person Erica, I will buy you coffee – no wait – the whole coffeeshop!

        Hope your day is going great :)

      • ericaswallow May 12, 2011 at 10:36 am #

        Congrats! Where are you based anyway? (I’m in NYC, but currently at Mashable Connect in Orlando)

      • Leo Widrich May 12, 2011 at 10:51 am #

        Thanks. :)

        That sounds amazing Erica, following #mashcon eagerly! :) Are you speaking too?

        Oh, I am currently based in the UK, Birmingham, but we are moving over to Palo Alto in the summer and I am taking a year out of university for Buffer.

        Hope to spend some time in NYC though of course.

      • ericaswallow May 12, 2011 at 11:04 am #

        I’m not speaking at Mashable Connect, but I’m introducing Rohit Bhargava and moderating the Q&A for him and Steve Rubel. :)

      • Leo Widrich May 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

        Whoa, well I guess that kind of gives you the same feeling then! Would really have been so excited to be attending (well, who wouldn’t? ;)

        Oh and Erica, you won’t believe what happened. Following on from the post, Twitter invited us to meet with them in their office! So, that basically puts me into double debt to you.

        Anyways, I will follow your steps closely, the stuff you are writing about is way to important. If I can ever help you out (don’t know how), please let me know, happy to do anything.

        Wish you a wonderful time at #mashcon and hope we can speak some more at one point :)

  10. andreaedwards April 20, 2011 at 1:31 am #

    I orginially logged onto your site to read this article and I’m really not surprised. I was in PR in the US, Europe and Asia for many years, and there are two aspects here. One, clients value numbers – so numbers of articles Vs one or two great articles = successful. The other is the pressure on account executives to get on the phone and push, push, push. Back in 1995, when I first arrived in London, I was asked to send out press releases and then to call everyone to see if they got it. I said why would I do that? And the account manager said because that is what we do. I didn’t do it, but I did call a couple and pitched the story more fully, getting good coverage as a result. They left me alone after that. The trick is breaking away from the norm (and having the confidence to do so,) focusing on a couple of great pieces Vs lots of little ones, and knowing, really knowing, what makes your key journos tick. Most junior PR people are intimidated by journos, but if you get to really know them, build a relationship, and understand what they need to be successful, you’ll win everytime. PR isn’t HARD, but it does require a person to build a knowledge base of their top targets in line with their clients media needs. To do that, all you’ve got to do is read their stuff. Linking your ideas back to things the journos have already done is a great way of getting in the door. Like I said, it’s not hard, but for some reason, people make it appear to be hard. My advice – know a handful of top influencers, think about how your story meets their needs and go for it. Keeping it simple is important too. If you ain’t got them in a paragraph, you’re not going to get them. Sorry this is longer than a paragraph, cheers

  11. lucythorpe April 4, 2011 at 5:29 am #

    Pitching a great story to the right person should be easy – everyone’s a winner. What is harder from a PR perspective is getting coverage for the stories that are not so great – we used to call them the down bulletin stories in the BBC – one day the journalist might say yes but on another busier day it goes in the bin. PRs don’t always choose the material they work with but they do their best! I guess the skill from the PR point of view is turning ‘not much’ into something a journalist can use. Pitching bad stories is humiliating and no-one really wants to have to do it!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pitch Calls « CJ Strategists - November 28, 2012

    [...] http://ericaswallow.com/2011/04/03/great-pr-pitches/ [...]

  2. Oral genres: Pitch calls | CJ222 News Reporting & Writing - November 25, 2012

    [...] Swallow, Erica. 2012.  http://ericaswallow.com/2011/04/03/great-pr-pitches/ [...]

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