My inbox is constantly flooded with pitches from public relations (PR) professionals, and the majority of them are complete garbage. While a few come over that are perfectly fine, most are downright cringe-worthy.
“Want to interview the company founder Jonathon?”
You can’t even spell my name correctly? Pass.
“We are launching this amazing new app and it would be perfect for your audience.”
Looks interesting, but I see this was sent to 50 email recipients, taking laziness to the highest level. Pass.
I know a lot of people in the PR space and have built some amazing relationships over the years. One of those relationships is with Lavonte Johnson, CEO of Star Relations, and while his company focuses on securing press coverage across music and celebrity outlets, we constantly talk strategy. His company secures press on outlets like Billboard, VIBE and XXL — major music industry outlets that receive pitches around the clock, so he knows how to craft an effective pitch that, at the very least, is read by the target recipient.
If you want to write pitches that will be read, rather than sent to the trash immediately, consider the five tips below.
1. Be fully aware of whom you are pitching.
It’s important that you are fully aware of who you are pitching. Is your pitch related to what they typically cover? You need to put some effort in, but sadly, most pitches are done completely blind, with zero research or thought behind them.
“Take time to read something that your target recently wrote and make sure to include a little detail pertaining to that, as it helps to build a relationship immediately. It takes just a few minutes to get familiar with your target’s previous work, and it greatly increases the chance of them not only reading your pitch, but also actually responding,” suggests Johnson.
Social media engagement is such an easy way to lay a little foundational ground work. A follow, with some “likes” and replies mixed in is an easy way to get one someone’s radar. Then, when you send your pitch, your name is somewhat familiar, which increases the chance of your email avoiding the trash.
2. Avoid emails that reek of a copy-and-paste job.
I can smell a copy-and-paste email from a mile away, and when I receive them I send them to the trash right away without even reading them. Generic pitches that appear to be automated are a complete waste of your time.
When I receive an email that has different font styles or sizes throughout the body, it’s obvious that I’m the 434th person to receive the email, albeit a few changed information fields. Johnson says to avoid copy-and-paste emails altogether, saying, “I always write a unique pitch for every recipient, even avoiding using a template as a guide. I find that authentic pitches are far more effective, and while more time consuming, in the end, you will end up landing more successful placements with this approach.”
3. Highlight the value you are providing the publication.
For me to give a pitch attention, it needs to offer value, and I need to be able to see that value within seconds of opening the email. Instead of writing a paragraph about how awesome something is, provide answers to the following:
- Why will my audience be interested in the story?
- Why will this story attract traffic and interest?
- How will this story help me reach my target audience?
“If your pitch leaves the recipient asking questions, you aren’t going to get a response. The last thing you want to do is give your target extra work. Highlight the value you are providing them if you expect them to take the time to reply to you,” offers Johnson.
4. Stop using the same automated templates that every other PR “pro” is using.
Now, I’m not saying that automation tools are bad. In fact, my company is currently using Pitchbox to execute campaigns for some of the brands we own. I am working on an article about how to properly execute a campaign using this tool, that I will be publishing in the near future.
If you are using software, please don’t just use the standard template that comes pre-loaded. They are never intended to be used, yet so many people fire up software and launch a campaign without any customization or thought put into it.
Get creative and make sure to stand out from everyone else.
“Media outlets and journalists receive so many pitches every single day, so it’s important that you do everything in your power to stand out from all of the template-pitches that they receive, all of which appear to be the same. If your pitch even slightly resembles a template-pitch it will be ignored and deleted,” says Johnson.
5. Get to the point — clearly and quickly.
“Writing a long-winded pitch says that you don’t value your target’s time. The less they have to think, the greater chance you have receiving a response,” explains Johnson. Be 100 percent transparent and honest in your initial pitch — be clear in regards to what you are looking for.
What do you want out of the ask? Being upfront and honest will get you instant respect. If you dance around the ask or try to sugar coat it, you will likely be ignored. I get it — you want some exposure — just be honest about it. If you try to blow smoke up my rear about your intentions, it’s likely going to cause me to delete it.
Let’s face it, no PR professional is pitching just for the fun of it — there are motives and intentions behind every pitch. Make yours clear (and quickly) for the best response rate.