We have the opportunity to work with media outlets all across the nation. Our goal, along with building strong, beneficial relationships with reporters, is to get our clients’ news in front of as many eyes as possible. As an agency, we’ve secured stories in some of the top media outlets, both traditional and digital, in the world. We’ve also secured stories for clients in local and industry specific outlets. All of these placements started with a single email.
I’ll break down one of our most successful placements. Our client, Extra Space Storage, recently published a video called “10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Having A Baby” and wanted us to promote it for them. We pitched The Huffington Post, along with several other major publications. The Huffington Post article ended up having over 200k Facebook Likes and 15K Shares, along with skyrocketing YouTube views to over 1 million in just a few days. As of late January the total YouTube views are 1.8 million. You can find our full case study here.
Here’s how we did it.
The first, and probably most important step, is research. You need to research the outlets you want to pitch to. Be smart about the places that you pitch to. It might be fun and exciting to pitch a video asset to the New York Times, but there isn’t really a place on their site for that type of content. However, pitching a video asset to a site like Buzzfeed or Mashable are both great options. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of sites that you want to pitch to, it’s time research who you’re going to pitch to.
When we pitched the parenting video, we researched outlets that had a parenting section. When we started looking into the Huffington Post Parenting Section our next step was to look at authors that had similar topics. One thing that we learned was that there are subtopics upon subtopics that journalists cover. Someone may write about parenting tips, parenting tech, or several of other topics. Finding the right reporter who covers your niche is vital.
We found a reporter that wrote about parenting topics, but also did a lot with advertisements and videos. So we felt like she would be a perfect fit for us to pitch to.
Crafting The Pitch
This is probably the hardest step in the whole process. You really only have one chance to get a reporter’s attention and to tell them why they should be interested in your product. Before you start pitching take a step back and look at it from the journalist’s perspective. Is this something that you’d want to write about? If you weren’t part of the company would this be interesting to you? Why should I care about this? How will this benefit the readers?
Just like with music, there isn’t a formula to a create a #1 single. There are some patterns that you can follow though. Here are some steps to create the perfect pitch:
- Remember you’re pitching a story, not a product
- Personalize the pitch
- Don’t pit news outlets against each other
- The hardest part is a subject line that makes them want to open the email
- You’re pitching a story idea, not sending them a novel (keep it short)
After talking to several journalists, I’ve learned that one of their biggest frustrations is getting pitches that are obviously the exact same pitch that their competitors are getting. Sometimes, pitching is more about the quality of placements and less about the quantity. Also, don’t try to leverage previous coverage to get more coverage. For example: “We’ve been covered by Forbes, Time, and the Wall Street Journal…” Why would a reporter want to cover something that their competitor has already covered?
We’ve done a lot of research on the length of pitches, what works well and what doesn’t. I wish there was a hard-and-fast word count I could give you, but there isn’t. In general, what we’ve gathered is that a shorter email (150–250) is best for “cold” pitches. Keeping it short will force you to write concisely and get to the point, thus saving you and the reporter time. Another tidbit is that you don’t have to introduce yourself in the beginning of the email—that should be in your email signature. They care more about the potential story and less about the person pitching it.
Lastly, the subject line is the first obstacle to getting the reporter to pick up your story. Ditch the boring subject lines like “Story idea about …” or “Parenting tips”. Try subject lines that add meaning, like “Do your readers recognize the early warning signs of [blank]?” or “Your story on [blank]; more on [how pitch relates].”
With all that being said, this isn’t some complicated formula. The email that we sent to The Huffington Post was short and simple, but it was effective. We followed the principles outlined here and it netted us some great results. Check it out:
I saw your article about the new Pandora ad and the special connection between moms and their children. It was a really touching clip.
I saw another video that I thought you might be interested in. Extra Space Storage recently created a video called “10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became A Parent.” It’s an inspirational/motivational video for those soon-to-be parents.
It’s located here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p27Hi8QoHoo
Also, if you’re interested I can put you in contact with the creators of the video.
That is a groundbreaking pitch, right?! I told you it was pretty simple.
Now that they’ve picked up your story it’s time to say “thank you.” While some correspondence between you and the reporter may be weeks or months in the making before a story is published, sometimes it’s just a few days after the initial pitch. Make sure that you always send a follow-up email telling them thank you and that they did a great job. This allows you to build a relationship with them and establish yourself as a future source for them. Plus, it’s just good manners to say thank you.
Following these steps has helped us secure stories in top-tier outlets across the web. We’re excited to continue our work and refine our pitching process. If you have any tips, we’d love to hear about them! Drop me a line at eric[at]bigleap[dot]com to let me know what’s worked well for you.