• Advice

The art of a great pitch: How to get a journalist to write about your business

You have a new product or business launch coming up, and you’d really love to get some press. How can you get a journalist to write a story about what you’re doing?

If you don’t have the means to hire a freelance publicist, you can reach out to media yourself. You’ll need to create and send a pitch -- a short introductory email that tells a journalist what your announcement is and piques their curiosity.

Here are some basic tips for writing the perfect pitch email:

Create your elevator spiel.

Your pitch email should contain a bite-sized summary of the thing you are trying to promote. If you’re a carpenter who just made a new series, you might say something like, “I’m releasing a new line of furniture inspired by [XYZ], and I wanted to reach out to see if you might be interested in featuring it on [name of website].” Then you can go into further detail about your awesome new line.

A pitch is not the time to be humble, so if there’s something notable about your company -- i.e. you’ve won an award or a famous person is obsessed with your product -- don’t forget to include that information. If you have a press release, include it as an attachment.

Keep things short and direct.

Editors don’t have time for long emails, so keep things short and they’re more likely to read the important parts. Think of your pitch as a teaser and avoid long, chunky paragraphs. If things do start to feel lengthy, use bullets.

Consider timing.

When it comes to self-promotion, you need to plan ahead. Different types of media have different lead times for stories. Magazine editors are usually working on issues 3-4 months ahead of publication date. TV, radio, and newspapers have shorter timelines that can vary from a few days to a few weeks out. Blogs are constantly updated, so they will sometimes post content the same day.

If there’s a time-relevant aspect to your product -- i.e. you’re doing something that relates to a holiday or the anniversary of a historic event -- be sure to say so.

Be strategic about who you reach out to.

While it’s good to cast a wide net, you should spend the most time reaching out to publications that would have the most impact. That can mean big publications that have a wide reach, but it also means small publications with just the right audience. If you know someone who works in media, see if they can get you in touch with the right editor or department for their publication.

Be friendly.

People like to read emails from people, not robots. Make sure you sound genuine and avoid jargon or overly complicated language. If your email sounds boilerplate, you’re less likely to get a response.

Suggest story ideas.

It sometimes helps to provide ideas for articles that could include your project. Even if a journalist isn’t interested in writing a direct blurb about your business, they might incorporate it into a larger story. If you’re releasing a screenprinted art book, for example, a writer might roll it into a story about DIY publishing. If you run a coworking space, an article about changing workplace trends might be a good fit.

Include your contact information.

Don’t forget to include the best way to get ahold of you if a journalist wants more information or would like to schedule an interview.

Send a follow-up.

PR is a little like fishing, so don’t feel frustrated if you don’t get any bites. Plan to send a follow-up email to journalists you don’t hear back from. The second email can contain the same information as before, but the wording should be different so it doesn’t seem repetitive. A follow-up should be spaced out, so wait at least a week.

Consider reaching out in other ways.

Most journalists receive pitches and press kits by email and snail mail, so you might want to consider contacting them via Twitter. Not only will it help you stick out, but it will also force you to keep things brief (which is always good for pitching).

If you have a journalist’s contact information and feel comfortable doing so, you can also try a follow-up phone call. Keep it brief and don’t be pushy. Cold-calling journalists isn’t as common in PR as it used to be, so be careful about this approach and save it for the publications you think would be the best fit.

Don’t forget to send the thank-you’s.

When you do get positive press coverage, don’t forget to send a quick thank-you email. Not only is it a nice thing to do, it will help the journalist remember you in the future.

Freelancers, what techniques have helped you to get press?