How to Get Editors to Read Your Pitch
You get a notification on your iPhone and quickly salivate, hoping it’s some reporter who’s excited to write about your client. You rush to read it. Sigh. It's a Groupon.
The lives of PR folk can be diluted to the sending and receiving of emails and the hopes of reads, replies, and articles. We talk up our worth, but live and die by the eternal struggle of waiting for other people’s responses. There are hundreds of targets, and most editors will be lukewarm at best to your pitch.
Focus on getting your pitch read.
It's not as difficult as you’d think. I've had responses from the Today Show and The New York Times. They’ve written articles based on my pitches. It worked because I focused on one thing only: getting read.
Flush your lexicon.
Leverage. Actionable. Exciting. Revolutionary. Game-changing. Take every term that you think would impress a client and put them in the toilet.
Every word you use should be as genuine and unemotional as possible. Think utility over excitement. If you suspect that your news or story will excite the person you're emailing, then communicate that by saying why. And take this contrarian advice: Tell, don't show. You are not Earnest Hemmingway, and this is not a bestseller. You are trying to get a busy editor to read something and then take action.
Write as if you'll be read in Morse code.
Radiotelegraphy was used to send quick, efficient messages before anybody ever thought about an iPhone. Lives were on the line. While nothing a publicist will do will ever be that important, there's a takeaway: Keep it short. Imagine every word is going to have to be interpreted using a code. Distill everything into its component elements before you hit send.
I'm not saying every email should be a soulless ramble, but you’re certain to have more success if you focus on communicating, not on sounding impressive.
Cut yourself off at 150 words.
If you can write about your client in less than 150 words, you'll exponentially increase the chance that someone will read your email.
Remember: Life is short and you are an intruder in every editor’s inbox. A reporter owes you nothing. Sure, sometimes you're giving them a great story. Other times you're giving them something vaguely relevant and praying they'll write about it. Both are fine. Just make sure to immediately communicate why they should pay attention.
Make it easy for the editor to take action.
If you want a reporter to write about your app, include a link to the app. Or a promo code. If you have a press release, photos, put it in a PasteBin so they can share or use the text without formatting issues, and include a Dropbox link so they have the press release, photos, and anything else they need to close the story right there, without having to email you for it.
Do not paste a press release at the end of the email. That’s a nauseating amount of text for any editor to read. In the press release, put in the price, the launch date, what the product or service does.
This is critical: Make it abundantly clear who the audience is what differentiates your product or service from all the others out there.
Focus on utility over presentation.
If you want to be that publicist that gets stories written, you have to distill everything you do into something serviceable for the reporter. Don't create an FAQ with questions that the client wants to answer--create one that will answer the reporter’s questions. Have a headshot, a bio, a press release and everything they'll need ready, and make it available via one hyperlink that reporters can quickly click on.
Organize your pitch so that it can be read in seconds and so that the reporter can effectively not speak to you again--while still doing what you want them to.
Don't put a square peg in a round hole.
Sometimes PR people claim to craft or target a story for a reporter, but they don’t actually do so. They instead choose not to figure out if the story is "craftable." If you’re wondering how you can make your story work for a beat columnist, it’s already the wrong pitch. You’ll accomplish nothing but irritating a reporter if you pitch a reporter a story about something he or she doesn’t cover.
Occasionally, you’ll miss the boat. If a reporter writes a roundup of products similar to yours, you're just too late. Let it go.
ED ZITRON is the founder of EZ-PR, a PR and media relations company based in San Francisco. He is also the author of This Is How You Pitch: How to Kick Ass in Your First Years of PR, an Amazon bestseller in the PR category. He has worked with companies large and small, including Target and the Nature Publishing Group, as well as smaller startups and tech figureheads.
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