Since I began blogging for Forbes.com in 2011, I went from writing for the ForbesWoman channel to Forbes Leadership several months ago. Suddenly, an interesting phenomenon occurred. I’m now pitched a steady stream of story ideas about CEOs, authors, experts, marketers, politicians, celebrities and entrepreneurs who are represented by a wide range PR firms and consultants dying to have their clients featured. I receive over 300 pitches a month and that number is growing exponentially each day.
I’ve learned this – almost everyone who is covering a beat or writing a blog or column does other things in their professional life as well, and has incredibly limited time to do what they need to do as a writer. For instance, I have my own business as a success and leadership coach, and I serve as a professional development consultant for women, and corporate and entrepreneurial trainer and speaker. The time I spend interviewing for my posts and writing them is only a portion of the entire pie of my professional endeavors. What that means is if you want to connect successfully with someone in the media, you need to be as respectful of their time as possible, and demonstrate your keen awareness that they have more to do than wait breathlessly to serve your client.
Although I’m very new to being on the receiving end of this pitch frenzy, I’ve already developed some very strict rules and boundaries about what types of pitches or emails I’ll open, and which ones I’ll delete in a heartbeat. I can tell in an instant who is on my wavelength, reaching out with a bona fide, high-quality story idea, or conversely, who’s got their hand out, shouting “Look at ME, ME, ME!” or “Make me some money!”
Here is my personal top 10 list of Do’s and Don’ts regarding the best way to approach someone in the media if you want them to: 1) take you seriously, and 2) even remotely consider what you’re pitching:
1. Don’t say “You should see this.” – It’s offensive to the media expert to be told what they should or should not do or see. They are in a far better position to know what they should spend their time on than you are.
2. Don’t add attachments – Emails are fine, but attachments won’t get opened. Don’t rely on extra material to sell your story — make your pitch right in the email and make it short, sweet and compelling.
3. Don’t pitch something way out of their sweet spot or interest area – I’m floored at the amount of material I’m requested to consider that literally has nothing to do with I write about or cover.
4. Don’t call them on the phone – EVER. I won’t take pitch calls. It’s highly intrusive to be called on the phone and pitched during the business day or after. Save it for email.
5. Don’t make them do your job of figuring out how they could use your client’s information. Craft your pitches with well-laid out story angles that the writer can use to hit the ground running. Offer key points, tips or strategies that address a hot topic pertinent to the writer. If all you’ve got to offer is something about how great the client is, forget it.
1. Be very respectful in your language and approach — Reflect your understanding that they receive thousands of these pitches a year, and explain exactly why you hope they’ll find yours important. Put yourself in their shoes.
2. Do your homework – Know what the writer likes, dislikes, is passionate about, and will most likely cover. Don’t just blanket them with pitches because they write for a particular publication you’d be thrilled to be featured in.
3. Once they cover your client, leave them alone for a bit – Again, be respectful. Don’t hound them to feature your next client the next week. They have other fish to fry. Build a solid relationship with the media expert that’s mutually satisfying and lasting.
4. Be clever, creative and smart – Come up with an angle or topic that hasn’t been addressed ten thousand times before, and demonstrate not only your client’s talents but also his/her flexibility and range.
5. Do your job well and be of service – Present your client in the best possible light by doing solid research upfront and using your creative genius. Then craft a great story that reveals something your media expert would be thrilled to cover.
As in any job, don’t do it half-heartedly. When you’re being compared to thousands of others, it really shows how much you put into your job (and your pitch). Bring your best self to it. Showcase your own creative talents and innovative thinking. And make your top priority a wish to be of service, not to win a story.
(For more training on how to pitch the media, contact me.)