Writers at top-tier publications get slammed with an average of 500 pitches per day. Are you one of the brands vying for press? If so, there’s a lot you can learn from these writers’ top pet peeves when it comes to pitching influencers.
I. Make sure you read the author’s archives and pitch content that is relevant to that writer’s beat.
“Being spammed with everything when nothing is relevant to me.”–CNN
“JUST LOOK AT WHAT I COVER! Don’t pitch what I don’t cover and we’ll be good. If you spend 10 minutes looking at my history you’ll know whether to pitch me or not. Spamming me doesn’t help our relationship.”–Popular Mechanics
“The single most annoying thing I see in first-time pitches is a lack of awareness of context. Why is this story suitable for the Times? What, if anything, have e said about it before? What makes it new? Why should a reader care about it now? This is basic homework every writer should do; if I don’t se it, I’m most unlikely to read it.”–The New York Times“Bothering writers with irrelevancies is annoying and amateurish, not to mention a poor way to leverage a relationship. And the online information economy is fueled by relationships. Therefore, alienating large numbers of people you depend on, or someday will depend on, is an unsustainable business model. Aimless pitches from haphazard young Courtneys have always been a PR Worst Practice, but in the Brave New World they are deal-killers. Me, I have a one-strike-you’re-out policy.”–AdAge
II. Craft a succinct, descriptive, and personalized pitch to get the best response.
“It’s weird how off-putting I have come to find the experience of clicking open an email only to have to wade through a two-paragraph anecdotal lead I’m not sure I’m going to care about. The best sales pitches, I think, start with a personal connection -and an opportunity for me to tell a writer, ‘Nope, I’m the wrong editor for this, you should email [a different contact]‘.”–Wired
III. Don’t use the phone to pitch. Ever.
In our original publisher survey, we found only 5% of bloggers requested phone calls and that these respondents were mostly small blog owners, whereas most top-tier editors were vehemently against this method of outreach.
“Calling is a definite no-no in my book. I find it very unprofessional, and I especially hate when press officers do it.”–ScienceNOW
“The phone is intrusive. Email lets me see how you write, lets me forward your pitch to colleagues for consideration, and lets me ask follow=-up questions or send a quick ‘no thanks’ without getting dragged into a 20-minute conversation.”–AARP
IV. Always check your spelling and grammar before hitting send.
Eighty-five percent (85%) of writers said there was some likelihood that they would delete a pitch based on a spelling/grammar errors, regardless of the content’s quality.
“For me it’s not pitches that induce aversion to a writer; it’s the quality of their writing.”–Scientific American
“Repeated mistakes are a good way onto my blacklist.”–Wired
V. Craft an informative subject line, not clickbait.
More than 60% of publishers told us that the best subject lines should be tailored to their beat, while 50% agreed that you should do this by being both specific and descriptive.
“Don’t clear your throat in the subject line–get straight to the point–and don’t shout at me with all-caps.”–Popular Science
“Subjects can be complicated to begin with, especially when it comes to science and technology, so language that really cuts to the chase and explains the news is most hopeful. I always like to say, explain it to me in a sentence or two as if you were telling your Grandmother, before getting into the specifics.”– Mashable
VI. Produce content that’s newsworthy and generally more interesting than a press release.
When asked, “What characteristics does the perfect piece of content posses?” writers responded: Exclusive research (39%), Breaking news (27%), Emotional stories (15%), Relevant Content (19%).
“Press releases offer no context, no understanding of the receiver, and no story. They are literally the laziest thing a company can do.”–TechCrunch
“Before you even attempt to create a pitch, make sure your story is newsworthy. Journalists are generally interested in things that are new, unexpected or will resonate with their readers in some way. Above all, don’t navel gaze. You may be excited about your new product, but will anyone else be? If in doubt, wait until you’ve got a better story.”–The Guardian
“If [your pitch] is a bald appeal for publicity without much substance, don’t bother because you could do more harm to your reputation than it’s probably worth (unless of course the client is paying enough to justify trashing your reputation).”–Yahoo! Finance
“Bloggers and reporters are some of the busiest people you could possibly hope to meet. They’re actively looking for the most interesting, relevant, and linkable stories out there, preferably before anyone else can run with it. But truthfully, they spend the most of their time hacking through the weeds of generic or over the-the-top inbound emails, press releases, Facebook messages, Skypes, SMSes, Tweets, and IMs. It’s almost a small miracle that anyone can ever get their story told.”–TechCrunch
VII. Make fact checking easy on writers by providing all of your sources upfront.
“Rudeness or lack of cooperation with fact checkers gets a yellow card and then a red card if repeated.”–Wired
VIII. Don’t use hyperbolic language to sell your content.
“Hyperbole, buzz words, etc are a quick way to make it to my blacklist.”–Examiner
“It’s always good to know why the news is important – if it’s not my main area of coverage, I could overlook groundbreaking news and just not know it. At the same time, it’s good not to overall it with words like ‘groundbreaking’ when it’s really not.”–Mashable
IX. If you promise an embargo or an exclusive, don’t publish your story before that date.
“One annoying thing for us is when an embargo is broken. That means that a news site goes early with the news despite the fact they’ve promised not to. The benefits are clear – sites like Google News and TechMeme prioritize them first as having broken the story. Traffic and links flow in to whoever breaks an embargo first.”–TechCrunch
X. Build a relationship with the people you pitch.
64% of writers think it is of some importance that you establish a personal connection before pitching.
“It doesn’t hurt to introduce yourself to bloggers or reporters offline and online to start building relationships with influencers who will help craft and guide your company across the marker adoption bell curve. Read and comment on their work. Send a brief intro email before you need anything. Attend one of the many networking events in your area to meet those who can help you, and those who you, in turn, can help as well.”–TechCrunch
In closing, don’t be clueless when it comes to pitching publishers or your brand will suffer.
“Clueless people drive me crazy!”–Examiner