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“
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…