The cold, hard truth of media pitching


Pitching the media is hard, and getting harder, but we PR people aren’t doing anything to help make it any easier. Below is my approach to crafting a pitch, but first a couple words of caution for would-be pitchers.

Stop it!

Hey everyone, pay attention! Especially all you start-ups out there. Stop sending useless emails to the media, you are ruining it for those of us who try really hard at sending useful pitches. To find out what constitutes a bad pitch, Google “bad media pitching;” ignorance of the rules is not an excuse. Want advice on a good pitch? This blog has plenty of it, or you can hire a good media-relations shop.

Maybe You Should Work for An Ad Agency?

Placing media hits using traditional media relations is becoming more difficult, but the upsides haven’t changed: with an implied third-party endorsement by the outlet, content about your client is not skipped over like ads, and media relations nearly always costs far less than advertising. As the lines blur between public relations and advertising with paid placements dressed up as sponsored content or social media content only seen because it is pushed by advertising, you will feel the rush of instant, assured placements of branded content. If you love that and want more and more of it, you might want to consider changing careers from media relations and join an advertising agency. Just note, getting paid placements is easy; doing it right is hard. Successful media relations takes experience, lots of time and strategy, doing advertising the right way demands the same. Trying to do both is a mistake.

The Annotated Anatomy of a Pitch

I’ve pitched the media for going on 15 years with some success. Here is where I have landed on the cold pitch, meaning pitching new subject matter to a journalist I don’t know. I bring you the anatomy of a cold email pitch.

But wait, before you type a single letter, research the recipient and her publication, know her and her audience – if it’s a cold pitch, take at least 30 minutes to do this for each journalist. That media database you spend so much money on – it should be one of at least three tools you use, basic Googling being another. Make sure you absolutely know the subject matter you are pitching cold AND that the journalist cares for exactly that type of pitch. (For example, a journalist may have a beat of “auto industry” but, read her byline to make sure she covers new detailing products rather than the big, international movements in the entire industry.) Go for quality over quantity. Anything else is sPRam (PR Spam) and you are ruining it for the rest of us.

O.k. back to the anatomy of a cold email pitch (click to enlarge):

I am curious, what else works for you?

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