I write a lot of posts here on Inc.com. That means I am super hungry for great material to cover in them.
I also get tons of emails from entrepreneurs and their PR reps pitching me story ideas. I'm all set then, right?
While the volume of ideas I receive is impressive, sadly, the quality isn't. And I'm not alone. "I get dozens of pitches every week from PR professionals and business owners who hope to get products or services featured in an article," my colleague Jeff Haden has written. "Too bad most of those pitches are terrible."
Therefore, besides a kind motivation to lend a hand to publicity-hungry entrepreneurs, it's also in my self-interest to pass along solid tips for improving your pitches (here are Haden's, which I totally agree with). In that spirit, you might want to check out this helpful post on how to attract the attention of major media outlets from Unreasonable Institute co-founder Tyler Hurting. He managed to get his organization covered in BusinessWeek, Inc., The Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur.
Some of his ideas I can't entirely endorse (mostly "be persistent." As someone who often gets the exact same pitch six times from a single PR person, I can attest that taking this too far will earn you intense hatred, not attention. People's inboxes are crazy, so check back once. After that you're being annoying. Very.) But most of his other ideas, like these below, are great tips for entrepreneurs looking to get some high-profile attention for their businesses.
1. Let the story do the work.
Sure, presentation matters. (Please, please, keep formatting super simple, and for the love of all that's holy never include a cheesy headshot.) But the story you're pitching matters way more. Get that right and you're 90 percent of the way towards your destination, according to Hartung.
"No matter how amazing you think your organization is, your organization in and of itself is not usually worth writing about. Major media are looking for an event or a major announcement that can tell an intriguing story. It is within that context that people will hear of your organization," he writes.
Crafty business tricks and tools, deep subject matter expertise, under-reported trends, truly intriguing personal journeys, and unique approaches to common challenges that readers might want to try themselves all make reporters' ears perk up. 'Hey, want to hear about this successful founder/ start-up' type emails generally do not.
2. Skip the press release.
Is this always true? I have no idea. But it's true for me (at least initially, though they're sometimes a useful way to get a handle on, say, survey or research results after I've requested more info), and apparently it's also true in Hartung's experience.
"You will be much more effective in piquing someone's interest with a concise, intriguing email," he believes. Concise is the key word here. If you don't have my interest in one or two sentences, I'm archiving the email.
3. Be crafty about who you contact.
I can't stress this enough -- know the beat of the writer you're contacting and make sure your pitch fits in with it but isn't the exact same thing he or she covered last week. (When, I get inane pitches focused on things like weight loss or industry specific minutiae, I consign the sender forevermore to my rarely-checked 'PR nonsense' email folder. The list of those so banished is long.)
"Contact writers who have published stories about your organization's industry or about similar topics, thus showing they might have a genuine interest in your story," says Hartung, who offers this clever hack to locate them: "have technology find these people for you by using some sort of an article or blog reader, like Google Alerts, that searches for keywords in newly published articles."