How to (and how not to) Pitch the Media
I get pitches. Lots of them. Every day. Some of them are interesting. Some of them aren't. But a select few are delicious train wrecks. Here are four such catastrophes, and what you can take away from each of them. The first is from a self-described "media juggernaut" (names of the pitchers have been withheld because, quite frankly, I can't remember them). It wasn't a terrible story idea, but the pitch itself was rife with middle-school grammar and addressed to "Enterpriser." I'm not even sure that's a word, let alone the name of our publication. Off to the electronic circular file it went. Some writers are insanely protective of the English language, so be nice it if you want to stay on their good sides. If you can't afford to hire a PR company to create press releases for you, at least do your best to write them carefully and clearly. Then, take the time to double- and triple-check your work. A typo here and there won't kill you, but it's just human nature for someone to be disinterested in a pitch that doesn't even get the publication's name right.
The next pitch was from a very interesting company with a very interesting story--so interesting that we had already written a story about it. So proud was this pitcher that I got the pitch yet again just a few days later, and we received samples of the company's product--just as we had months ago. If you don't care enough to keep track of your own press coverage, chances are no one else will either. Keep detailed lists of what media outlets have covered your business and who your contact was. Keep tabs on all the publications associated with a particular outlet. For instance, the story in this example ran on our women's site, but that doesn't mean we want a rerun of it on the main site.
I actually really liked the next pitch. I thought about, at the very least, chatting with the founder of the company and blogging it--that is, until I found out it had been pitched to everyone in the office. I won't speak for my colleagues, but to me, it looked a little needy. Plus, it hurt my feeling. You're dealing with intellectual exhibitionists when you pitch the media. At least pretend you think they're special. Take in all you can about the media outlets you're pitching and get a sense of who covers what--and how they cover it. Try to find the person who's most likely to be interested in your business and craft a pitch that caters to that person's style.
This last one's a little more personal, but nonetheless educational. I recently received a pitch that I can only assume was intended for someone else--some lovely young lady named Justine. I'm a guy, and I'm not French. And just to top it off, the pitch was from someone I'd worked with before. Business is all about building and maintaining relationships--and that includes the ones you build with the media. Try not to emasculate me--I mean, them. In short, the little things can sometimes be everything. Dealing with the media is a symbiotic relationship, so it's not too much to ask to remember people's names. If you can't remember them, keep a database of some sort. And again, always give things a final once-over before you hit that "send" button.
If you want to make sure your pitch is a strike, it's all about the details. We're sadly obsessed with them, and we expect the same from you.