05 Apr 6 Simple Tricks of a Winning Media Pitch … What I Learned Being in the Journalist’s Shoes.
I have been a HARO fan for a long time.
HARO is short for Help a Reporter Out. It is an online database of sources feeding journalists with story materials. It is also a great service for emerging companies looking to connect with the reporters.
Until recently I used HARO for pitching to media.
I responded to queries and landed several guest blog opportunities. Some of these guest blogs are still sending traffic years to my site. Years after the blog was published!
A few months ago, I switched roles and stepped into the journalist’s shoes.
I sent a HARO query for my Huffington Post series on Influence and Thought Leadership.
The process was very smooth.
It took me a just few minutes to submit a query. I was immediately notified of the next steps and received status updates promptly.
It was my first official time as a journalist. I expected to get a few responses. But I was definitely not prepared for the flood of email that followed. In the end, I received 50-60 responses.
My original intent was to write one article. I received so many interesting submissions that I ended up with a series of articles.
But the process of identifying these gems was quite overwhelming.
To effectively deal with the volume of email, I needed a system.
I came up with my own prioritization criteria. It helped me to quickly choose top submissions from the rest.
While each journalist is different, I hope that by sharing these simple tricks can help you create better media pitches in the future.
#1 Have the Right Qualifications
Do you have the basic qualifications to respond to the media query? Does your expertise match what the journalist requested?
In my example, I have specifically asked for C-Level Executives of the Technology Companies. However, I received a lot PR and marketing companies pitching their own work.
95% of these pitches were automatically disqualified – My topic was specifically to look at the non-marketing folks.
I did pause at a few. These were not necessarily exactly what I wanted, but they had an interesting twist.
One of the submissions I received was from a marketing company, but they offer Augmented and Virtual Reality marketing. Emerging technology is one of the topics I cover, so they made the cut.
#2 – Understand Content Requirements
I asked for very specific type of information in my query. People who took their time to provide thorough answers made the initial cut.
Pitches that contained no information, just questions, were automatically disqualified.
Typically, if it is not a cold sales email I try to respond to it. I even respond to the cold pitch emails occasionally. Especially if people put effort into content.
The flood of email I received meant that I could not respond to questions. If the pitch did not include most or met the other criteria, it was automatically deleted.
#3 – Be Original
Making your pitch memorable is critical to your success.
I received so many generic responses. That once again underscored the need for quality and originality in the content
The submissions that stood out included specific examples, original quotes, and lessons learned. It was fresh content, something I have not seem before.
The format of the submission was important, too.
Given the volume of submissions, I could not read all of them in detail, so I had to skim through them.
The ones that were easy to read made another cut.
By easy to read, I mean interesting subject lines, included bullet points, subheads, highlighted sentences that immediately caught my eyes.
#4 – Experiment with formats
I received a video for one of the pitches. It definitely stood out from the other email. I immediately followed up with the person who sent the pitch.
While I did not end up using the pitch, I had a great conversation. I will consider using her submission for the future.
Before you say video is too hard to record and automatically dismiss it as a viable option, the video I received did not look that difficult to produce.
It was a simple phone recording but it still did the trick – It got my attention.
If you struggle with writing, try recording your message next time.
#5 – Build a Connection First
I am one of the people who loves Twitter. I meet a lot of great people on Twitter and have interesting conversations. Some of the people understood that and connected with me on Twitter first.
I recognized their names when their submission landed in my inbox.
Not everyone who connected with me on Twitter ended up in the article. But it was a start. Their submissions had better chances than the other ones.
Same was true for LinkedIn – People who made a connection there first, made the initial cut.
Not everyone is the same.
Learn about more about the journalists you are targeting. If you understand their preferred communication style, you will may end up having your article published.
#6 – Follow up promptly.
Always respond to questions.
Those who passed the initial screening round were invited to share more information.
I was actually quite surprised when people did not respond.
They put a lot of initial effort into the pitch just to abandon it If you make an effort to submit your story for consideration, be prepared to provide additional information.
There were a couple of submissions that I was on the fence about. But the people who submitted them reached out with more. They convinced me to look at their pitches again.
Do not be afraid to follow up. Be respectful, not pushy. But do ask what the status is. In some cases, it may take 2-3 emails to be heard.
In the end, it was a great experience. I was thrilled to cover a range of influencers: from emerging thought leaders to seasoned executives. I also have a new appreciation for the journalists who have to sort through hundreds of pitches daily. Next time I send a pitch I will remember my own experience and be mindful in giving journalists what they want.