Media relations is no easy task. Journalists are busy people, and when pushing your client’s message, you have a small window of opportunity to gain a reporter’s attention, relay the message and achieve the media hit that keeps you in business.
Pitching bloggers can be more difficult still, in part because bloggers do not always hold themselves to the same journalistic standards as the traditional press. Make a misstep with a blogger and you may find your message turned on its head, doing damage rather than benefit.
As a PR exec, I know pitching is tough. Beyond that, no one is perfect. It’s a learning process every time, refining and adapting as you go. But in addition to my PR work, I run a blog on homeland security, Security Debrief, which allows me to offer perspective on pitching from the other side of the fence.
For Security Debrief, we have a general tips and submissions e-mail address that gets fed into my personal account…which means I get pitches a plenty. What started as an interesting way to gather homeland security news and insights has since turned into a running office joke – which PR exec with poor pitching technique will aggravate Justin today?
With that in mind, here are some suggestions, drawn from experience, on how NOT to get a blogger to cover your news. The following suggestions are based on real pitches I have received by phone and e-mail:
- Know specifically what the blog is about before you pitch.
An obvious best practice, right? It’s inconsistently followed. Knowing about the publication you’re pitching is crucial. For instance, if you are pushing some kind of computer “hard-ware based solution” for God knows what, but I run a blog on homeland security analysis, chances are I don’t care about your product, even if it does “include all the necessary” blah blah blah.
If you don’t take the time to figure out what I’m writing about, then you don’t care. And I don’t care about you or your client. Next.
- The pitch call and e-mail should come from the same person.
This one doesn’t take much explanation. If you called me, then you should be the one sending the follow-up e-mail. It sounds obvious, but I’ve gotten a call from one person, a follow-up e-mail from another person’s account, and the e-mail is signed by yet another person. Who can I call to get a piece of this hot news item? How about no one.
- One pitch per blog will suffice.
When building a media list of bloggers, keep in mind that, though they may have several contributors, blogs are usually run by one person (save mega blogs like HuffPost or Mashable). When you pitch, that generic e-mail address you’re using all goes to the same inbox. So how does one get the recipient to pass your pitch to the correct blogger?
I’ll tell you how not to do it.
Take Security Debrief as an example. We have nearly 30 contributors – do not send the same pitch to the same e-mail address 30 times addressed to 30 different people. Rest assured, short of offering Secretary Napolitano for an exclusive interview, this PR firm stands a poor chance of ever getting anything on the blog.
- Don’t open your pitch with reference to a divergent topic.
If you’re selling apples, don’t open your pitch with hand soap; open with apples.
For instance, what about a pitch for a subject matter expert that opens with reference to a Hollywood movie…seriously? Do I care if a movie somehow relates to your product or client? Do you take me for such an unsophisticated online dunce that I need a freaking pop-culture analogy to understand your oh-so-terribly complex pitch? No, all that made me want to do is go to the theater, certainly not respond to the pitch or give the client a second thought.
- Keep it short.
Everyone is busy, writers and reporters sometimes more so than others. Understanding that, your pitch should be succinct to a point where the hook, relevance and ask can be gleaned from the first couple sentences. If you don’t have me by two sentences, you never will.
Along this same vein:
Don’t read the pitch faster over the phone, as if that’s saving time while being effective. Not only is reading a pitch a bad idea, but going faster just means I can’t follow what you’re saying. Short, sweet and to the point will grab a blogger better than the most long-winded, nuanced descriptions.
- Pitch a blogger the way you pitch a reporter.
Perhaps the most valuable tip is to understand that bloggers are exactly the same as reporters – from a PR perspective that is. Their words count, they’re busy and you’re competing with others to get your message published. Use the same professionalism and seriousness of purpose pitching bloggers as you do traditional media.
These are some of the more extreme poor pitching examples. Check out Security Debrief for a post about a strange pitch Chris Battle (Adfero partner and Security Debrief founder) received from PBS – Is PBS trying to gin up controversy over TSA patdowns? Their strange Twitter campaign. (Interestingly, while Chris received only one such PBS e-mail pitch, I received an additional 11 identical e-mails.) Despite these aggravating (some think hilarious) instances where the pitching fell short, I have had some excellent conversations with other PR execs. Relationship building is essential. If I know you, I’ll hear you out every time, even if you’re having an off pitching day.
But if I don’t know you, and your pitch is abysmal, then I might go ahead and ridicule you in a blog post…
Recent Posts By Justin Hienz
- Semantics at Adfero: Why Less is More - November 2nd, 2010
- Ignoring writing style? Why don’t you just come to work in your pajamas? - October 4th, 2010