Mistake No. 1: "The company I work for, [redacted], is hoping to get nationally featured in an article on a prestigious and high-domain authority site such as Inc., Entrepreneur, Forbes, or Fortune."
Um... no. Reporters are storytellers. The most insulting thing you can do to any writer, at any level, is to send a pitch that reduces them to nothing more than free SEO. Furthermore, "I'm looking to be featured in a high-ranking publication," is blatantly about only you and what you want to get for your promotional purposes. It makes no pretense of providing a story of interest or value to others.
Mistake No. 2: "We are a very successful, unique brand. We accomplished [insert feats 1, 2 and 3]. So can I set up an appointment for you to interview our CEO?"
Mistake No. 3: "And we're fine with paying for this." Conversation over. This petition is less frequent, thankfully, but it insults (or should insult) any writer by anticipating they'd be willing to bend or break editorial rules to publish the SEO and promotional thing for a fee.
So here's the irony. The company behind this pitch, as I looked into it, is, in actuality, a pretty interesting team. I can see elements of what they've done that would be legitimately useful to others. Then I looked at the example article and writer of the piece they showed me about another company to illustrate the kind of thing they want to achieve.
I looked at the contributor's masthead. "I cover start-ups, travel, real estate and the occasional celebrity." Well, this is a clue. If the company has an angle that fits one of these criteria, they should make the pitch. If they don't, they should go another way.
Then I looked at the writer's bio. Pay dirt.
"I've always been addicted to people who live their lives to the fullest, playing all out...The most adventurous and successful lives are lived without guilt, regret, or fear. I'm always looking for passionate stories, places, and people to write about."
And then he closes with his email address.
Could this be any easier? The way to this writer's heart and his keyboard has been entirely mapped out. All you need to do is position your story within the framework the reporter has requested. Look at his prior stories. Which ones flew high, and why? Let the writer know which stories you enjoyed and that you work for a company that plays "all out," and in doing so, has achieved the kind of impossible outcomes you believe could teach and inspire others as well.
Then close your message with gratitude and an offer of help.
"If you were able to include us in one of your upcoming articles, we'd be grateful beyond words. And if that is a possibility, how can I help?"
I find it hard to imagine a writer who wouldn't respond to this message with interest, if not tears of gratitude, or with at least a desire to consider the aspects of your story that could potentially work. By making the effort to find out what the writer is looking for and answering that need, you are setting yourself apart from the majority of others. But sadly, the majority of people (and sometimes especially from within the agencies) are blindly pitching anyone and everyone in the hopes of finally wearing the writer down or breaking through with brute force.
So my response to the pitcher was this: "I need to ask you the obvious. Did you read this writer's masthead or take a look at his bio? Everything you need to successfully pitch this story is here."
They (and you) don't need a PR team to achieve this outcome. All it takes is a little observation and a little thought about "what's in it for them."
And I invited him to let me know how it goes.