Writing a successful media pitch isn’t easy.
With 57% of top-tier publishers receiving between 50 and 500 pitches per week, it’s in fact all too easy for your email pitch to get lost in the noise.
In addition, even if you found success previously, it doesn’t mean you can replicate that success every time.
So, the question that arises here is: How to write a media pitch that gets read?
Even though there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution here, I’ll try to give you some best practices and steps when it comes to pitching to large media outlets.
Ready? Let’s dive right in.
The 3 Elements of a Successful Media Pitch
In my recent post on PR outreach, I explained the complete process of creating successful email pitches for journalists and bloggers.
The purpose of these PR pitches is to get media coverage and gain exposure for your products and services from your target audience.
The truth is that a successful pitch isn’t as simple as crafting an attention-grabbing email subject line and hitting “Send”.
You see, there are many factors involved when it comes to crafting high-quality pitch emails.
So, what are the three elements of successful media pitching?
1) Add value
First of all, you need to be able to demonstrate some kind of value right away.
According to a survey by content marketing agency Fractl on 1,300 top-tier media publishers, only 52% of these publishers believe that the pitches they receive are somehow valuable.
This means that journalists want to receive high-quality, relevant pitches that have new data or an approach to things that fall into their beat from a different angle.
Note: The word “beat” is used by journalists to describe an area of expertise.
However, while journalists and people working in media do want to receive email pitches that have some value to demonstrate, no one wants to receive spammy mass emails that contain nothing noteworthy whatsoever.
Thus, crafting a good pitch isn’t enough.
You also have to demonstrate value.
And, you have to do it in a way that doesn’t sound too promotional.
Which brings me to my second point—the second element of a successful media pitch.
2) Don’t be self-promotional
Despite what most PR professionals—and people doing cold outreach for getting media coverage—think, digital PR isn’t all about you.
In fact, it isn’t about you at all.
Once you understand that, you’ll have a far better chance of getting your email pitch read.
Of course, having your pitch read in turn means that you have a fair chance of getting a reply.
According to the same survey by Fractl that I just mentioned, 56% of publishers will decline an overly promotional pitch.
This means that your media relations have to be based on the “You” rather than on the “I”.
Let me share an example with you.
Back in 2014, Esther Honig was featured on Buzzfeed because she had her face photoshopped in over 25 countries to examine global beauty standards.
The article got over 1,11 backlinks from 292 referring domains, and thousands of social shares and Tweets on various social media channels (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).
It’s also worth noting that around that time, interest for the woman who conducted this photoshop experiment, Ester Honig, in the US skyrocketed.
The truth is that the experiment, in terms of concept, was simple.
So, how did it become so successful?
I’m sure you’ve guessed the answer already: Ester, the woman behind the experiment, wasn’t interested in public relations, and neither did she have a specific PR strategy to promote the experiment or herself.
She simply wanted to add value by making a point.
If you follow the same approach, the promotion of the self will be only a by-product of your overall success.
Thus, what you have to do is to add value, and everything else will follow.
3) Focus on building relationships
However, in order for your story ideas to be heard and your content to gain exposure online, you have to focus on building relationships rather than on looking for “hacks” or quick wins.
As I mentioned earlier, most journalists—even those that don’t work in top-tier media publications—receive hundreds of pitches every month.
Regardless of this fact though, most journalists, especially in the beats of technology, news stories, travel, entertainment, business or finance, are reading pitches they receive often.
This shows us two things:
- That they’re constantly looking for new stories to cover.
- That they’re constantly looking to connect with new, valuable sources.
Building relationships is one of the most significant things you can do when trying to make new media contacts and looking to get press and media coverage for your product/service.
These are the three elements of any successful media pitch.
At this point, I’m going to share with you the 5 steps when it comes to writing a media pitch that gets read.
Step #1: Do Your Research
The first step I have for you is to do your research.
For all six steps that follow, I’ll be using a simple example of a web analytics SaaS.
In our example, we’ll assume that you run the content marketing operations of that SaaS, and that part of your product’s capabilities is to track the way people behave when searching online through search engines like Google.
Let’s further assume that your company recently conducted a large-scale study on no-click searches on the web.
Having such a study in your hands, it’s only natural that you want to get some media coverage for it.
Not the Forbes type of coverage, of course, but something decent that could help you get some exposure for the quality of data your product contains.
Naturally, you’d start by searching for this topic online.
Instead of standard Google search, we’ll use Respona’s integrated search engine.
Our search criteria will look like this:
As you can see, we’ve chosen…
- All markets—since we don’t want to limit our research
- Past year—so that we get only recent articles
- Web Search—so that we don’t limit our search only to news stories or blog posts
Here’s what we get back when we search for that query:
Note: Respona also gives us other important information (e.g. Domain Authority and number of Backlinks) for each of the top ranking results.
Let’s click on the first result.
That looks promising and very relevant to our own study.
It’s also published in a well-respected publication when it comes to search engine marketing, so it’s something we need to spend more time on.
In an instant, we can see that this news story actually covers a study conducted by Jumpshot and an analysis done by Sparktoro’s Rand Fishkin.
Rand is one of the most inspiring figures when it comes to SEO.
So, taking a look at his analysis is the most logical thing we can do.
Note: In our example, you’re running the content marketing operations of a web analytics provider. This means that you most likely know who Rand Fishkin is already. We’re just assuming that you don’t, so that we can explain the process of researching better.
As you can see, the study is well-written, thought-provocative, and provides valuable information on the subject that interests us.
In addition, taking a look at the backlinks for this particular piece, we can see that it has well over 800+ links from 410 domains.
Thus, it is evident that Rand could make a great prospect for our own study on zero-click searches.
Of course, your research doesn’t stop there, as you have to dive deeper into understanding what made that piece of content become so successful and how you can better approach your prospect.
Step #2: Be Relevant
One of the most important steps of the process is to be relevant.
Just to be clear, being relevant doesn’t mean simply mentioning things that you know your prospect is interested in.
Rather, you have to be relevant in many different ways, and not just in terms of the beat or topic in which the journalist, influencer or blogger is interested.
Some best practices here include:
- Showcasing previous work and any relevant content you may have published.
- Mentioning any common contacts that your and your prospect may have.
- Referring to a recent article that your prospect journalist wrote.
Now, an objection here could be: But how can I include all that in my email?
Short answer: You can’t and you don’t have to you—you only have to use the elements that make sense.
The email we’ve prepared for our hypothetical study using Respona looks like this:
Here’s how we’re trying to stay relevant throughout the email.
In our first paragraph, we say something that demonstrates familiarity with the work our prospect is doing.
Next, you can include a mention of one of the prospect’s previous articles or blog posts.
The piece that’s in the brackets—Insert Article Summary—is something we’ll do later on, using Respona’s Personalization feature.
It is essential that you show relevancy right away, otherwise the person you’re emailing most likely won’t bother reading any further.
You can also mention previous work that you’ve done, in the hopes that your prospect may be familiar with your work or have heard about you already.
Last but not least, you have to show that you and your prospect “speak the same language”.
For that reason, in our example, we’ve included a sentence that quickly explains what our technology is and/or how we’ve retrieved the data for our study.
This is also important because it gives you credibility and builds trust between you and your prospect, since it shows that the quality of the data is high.
Let’s move on to the third step of the media pitching process.
Step #3: Answer the “What’s In It for Me?”
Regardless of whether you’re pitching a content piece, a press release or anything similar, you have to answer the “what’s in it for me?” question in your email.
This is connected to the point of adding value that we mentioned earlier.
In our example, we manage to do that through some of our hypothetical study’s key findings.
As you can see, we used bullet points to break down some of the study’s main findings, since this way we make the email more readable and give emphasis to the three main points that we know will interest our prospect.
Of course, in our hypothetical example, we answer the “what’s in it for me?” question multiple times.
It is essential that you’re very clear about the benefit for the journalist, blogger, influencer or thought leader you’re trying to reach.
Thus, you have to be very careful as to showcasing the benefit for the recipient of your email.
Since we’re not talking about mass emailing here, you should get to know each of your prospects very well and thus be able to illustrate the benefits for them right away.
Let’s move on to the next step.
Step #4: Craft the Perfect Subject Line
Crafting a good subject line is essential to getting your message read.
In our example, the subject line is simple, but at the same time relevant, and has a high chance of getting the initial click that we want.
Let’s break down our subject line a bit.
- New: Everyone likes new information about something
- Zero-click searches: A topic that obviously interests our prospect
- Study: We give context as to what the email we’ve sent is all about
All we’ve done is to provide context as to what our email pitch is all about.
Nothing more, nothing less.
We haven’t promised anything, nor have we used any words that could trigger spam filters and have our email killed before it reaches our prospect’s inbox.
We also know that our prospect is a well-respected professional in the marketing space, so we wouldn’t want to harm our brand’s reputation by using a subject line that forces the click.
It’s important to understand here that crafting a subject line that’s enticing isn’t easy.
Thus, you have to spend quite some time coming up with a good subject line that will get your email read.
Let’s move on to the next step of the process.
Step #5: Personalize Your Pitch
Personalization matters a lot when it comes to media pitching.
Unfortunately, when most people hear the word “personalization”, they think it simply means adding the name of their prospect in their pitch.
Don’t get me wrong, calling your prospects by their name is, of course, important.
This is why in Respona, we have a list of variables for personalizing your email pitches…
… And the option to include Personalization as one of the steps that our users need to follow in order to launch their campaigns.
It’s one thing to add your prospect’s first name in your email pitch, but quite another to truly personalize the email for your prospect.
Personalization means that you’ve walked the extra mile to get to know your prospect better.
How can you do that?
Back to our example and our hypothetical web analytics provider SaaS, we want to reach out to Rand Fishkin.
What we can do is include something to show that this isn’t just a generic email sent to 100 other people.
As you can see, we’ve therefore included a “P.S.” at the bottom of the email, followed by something relevant about our prospect.
Since Rand Fishkin wrote the book Lost & Founder, a mention of his book makes absolute sense.
Be careful though, as you have to be genuine.
Only say things that you’ve actually experienced yourself or are well aware of.
There’s no need to mention something if you’ve never done it.
Relationships are built on trust and trust is built on honesty.
So, be honest, and you’ll have a much higher chance of getting a reply.
Let’s move on to the last step of the process.
Step #6: Don’t Forget to Follow up
There’s nothing wrong with following up on your first email.
In fact, you should definitely follow up, given the fact that your first email may have…
- Gone unnoticed by the recipient.
- Triggered a spam filter and ended up in spam.
- Neven got read because your recipient didn’t find the time to get back to you.
In Respona, you can set up as many follow-up emails as you like.
You don’t want to go too far with this, of course—2-3 follow-up emails are enough.
To create a follow-up email, you need to click on “Create New Step”.
… And start crafting your follow-up email.
Once you click “Save”, your email will be added in your 2-email sequence.
You can control the schedule of this sequence—when your emails will be actually sent—by clicking on the “Default” button next to the “Save” button while you’re creating your sequence.
As you can see below, I’ve adjusted my default schedule so that the days my campaigns are sent are Tuesday to Thursday.
Following up is essential—especially nowadays, when people are often living their lives at the speed of light.
Of course, it’s one thing sending a follow-up email as a kind reminder and another actually calling your PR prospect.
Please, avoid phone calls or other things that will make you look creepy when pitching for media coverage.
It’s one of the worst things to do and can harm your brand’s reputation irreperably.
Be respectful of your prospect’s time and try to add value without being intrusive.
Now Over to You
So, there you have it.
You now know how to write a media pitch that gets read.
I can’t stress enough the importance of focusing on building relationships.
Having this as a principle will help you excel at the digital PR game and get the results you want and deserve.
Now, I’d like to hear from you:
Have you ever tried to send a media pitch? If so, what were the tactics you used? What worked and what didn’t?
Let me know by leaving a comment below.