Working in Public Relations we have to be natural creatives, storytellers and communicators.
Pitching content is crucial to what we do. After all, working on behalf of a client to place content and raise awareness is central to our role.
But what if our pitches are going ignored? The following points are some things to consider the next time you make an approach:
1. Subject Line
This is the first thing that publications and journalists will see of you, so make this count.
Journalists receive countless pitches a day; to ensure yours stands out, be precise and keep it relevant.
The subject line you choose can be the deciding factor between them quickly scanning through what you have offered them, or, a swift delete.
Can’t believe I’m still getting emails beginning: ‘It’s the start of a new year …’ It’s lazy PR
— ChrisMaguire (@editor_Maguire) January 31, 2017
2. The Link
Although this doesn’t have to be direct, ensure that there is some credible link between the content you have and the client.
If the link between the two is too random it may resonate that you’re trying to cash in on an event/celebration, or are simply latching onto/imitating other press you’ve seen.
Avoid this and get in touch with your creative side! If there’s no obvious link at first, look again – brainstorm, create themes within the content, use keywords and ask your colleagues if you can pick their brain. You want your content to be original.
For group brainstorming a good online tool is Tecmark 635; the software encourages sharing and exchanging knowledge, and it enables users who aren’t in the same location to share ideas easily.
Another technique to help with brainstorming and keywords is to look at ‘related searches’ in Google search – these usually appear at the bottom of the page:
These can often provide inspiration and lead you in a different direction that you may not have thought of.
3. Research who you are reaching out to
Make sure you have looked into the publications you are contacting to gauge their overarching theme and tone. What areas do they cover?
Don’t just research the outlet themselves but also the individual whom you will be pitching the idea to.
Is the reporter in the specific field you want the material to land? Relevancy is key and the journalist is much more likely to consider your offering if it is something they are interested in.
If you are offering them something they have covered previously ensure you include something they have yet to cover, or take a different angle.
4. Their name
An extension of the above point but important enough to warrant its own place on this list. The journalist’s name.
It can be quite a biggie – especially if it’s spelt wrong, if it’s the completely wrong name, or worse; accidentally leaving a name in from a previous email.
— Caoilfhionn Rose (@CaoilfhionnRose) January 30, 2017
To avoid this embarrassment, take your time with mass emailing; it’s great to make the pitch email feel (and be!) organic.
You can also mention and link to a previous article of theirs that’s similar to your material, which yours can act as a follow on from.
Also, using a first name is a personal touch that won’t go unnoticed and can win you over a journalist.
5. What IS the story?
Don’t mix messages and write to the point – just like a journalist who has to get the whole story across in the beginning paragraph to grab the reader’s attention, adopt this method of writing in your pitches.
You also want to provide the journalist with something they can sum up briefly and easily to their editors.
Bullet points are a good way of avoiding this; they’re short, snappy and lend themselves to avoiding waffle.
6. Claims that cannot be upheld
Do not make up or twist the facts or stats just to have a bold headline.
You need to be able to provide sources for your work to build trustworthy relationships.
Transfer your personal relationship ethics into your work life – you wouldn’t trust a relationship full of lies, would you?
Honesty is the best policy. You can definitely put your spin on it, but you should never outright lie.
7. Spellcheck is your friend
Bottom line – typos are a big no no.
There is no harm in double and triple-checking your work. If you are unsure, ask around the office for some help.
What are a few minutes spent proof-reading compared to an online footprint of bad grammar for your client?
A good tool to help with your emails is Grammarly, which helps you find and correct writing mistakes; it’s free and can be added to your browser as an extension.
Press releases riddled with bad spelling will not only offend a journalist whose career is based on stringing words together but also bookmark yourself as a big NO in their books.
It should not come as a surprise that people who write for a living are annoyed by bad writing.
The above points will help you to avoid a PR blunder: remember to be creative with your ideas, research your journalists and publications (Vuelio is a great PR tool for this), check (and double-check!) your writing, and keep in mind that content is king.
It’s time to celebrate the perfect pitch!