Tag Archives: Pitching

Pitching Smarter: Gaining the Media Coverage You Want

I recently listened in on a webinar hosted by Michael Smart, an independent communications trainer. Michael works with PR professionals to help them land media coverage. Here are his tips and tricks for successfully pitching the media.

1) Frame Boring Content
Chances are your clients aren’t going to have a new product or “earth- shattering news,” every month, but you’re still going to be expected to get them media coverage. This is where framing comes in. You make the clients’ “boring” coverage interesting and relevant. One way to do that is to exploit pop culture. Even if your clients are B2B you can still draw parallels between what their business is doing and what is relevant in pop culture. Another way to frame content is simply to change the format. Think about what format works best for page views. Generally these are articles that incorporate lists, photos or GIFs. Tip: When creating your content try to get a link back to your client’s homepage. This is the best way to get SEO from your site.

2) Apply the 80/20 Principle to Your Media List
One of the biggest hurdles PR professionals face is time. We feel like we don’t have enough time to customize our pitches for each editor in our media list. Michael recommends spending 80 percent of your time pitching the top 20 percent of your media list. Focus most of your time on the 5-10 absolutely crucial influencers. Make sure your pitches are customized to meet the needs of the editor and publication. For the next 30 percent, do your best to briefly customize your pitches. You can send the same pitch to the last 50 percent of editors. You might ask yourself, “How do I know who the top 20 percent are?” All media relations should drive revenue and drive valuation. When determining who the top 20 percent are, think about which publications will have the biggest influence on driving revenue and valuation. Those publications are your top 20 percent.

3) Specific Formulas to Pitch Your Email
Once you have identified your 20 percent it’s time to do your homework. Be sure to reference the editor’s earlier work. Make sure to be as specific as possible. You want to let the editor know what you’ve actually read his or her past articles. Then tie in how your pitch relates. When tailoring your pitch makes sure it is short, specific and sincere. Even if the editor comes back with a “no,” showing editors you’ve done your research will help put you on their radar.

After your top 20 percent start using your database for the next 30 percent. Open with, “I know you cover…” Still try to be specific though. For example, if you are tying to pitch a tech story don’t simply say, “I know you cover tech.” Say something more specific like, “I know you cover start-up tech companies is San Francisco.” For the last 50 percent you can make the pitch very broad depending on the amount of time you have.

Tip: Snail mail editors’ pitches, content or products to get their attention and then follow up with an email. Also, don’t pitch via Twitter. Use Twitter as a way to build a relationship with editors. If they do happen to follow you back you may consider pitching them through direct message, but pitching on Twitter is too public. Many editors don’t want to pitches to be seen by competing publications.


PR Pitching 101

As a PR pro you want to find influencers, pitch stories and gain coverage for your client.

How Do I Find Influencers?

The best way to find influencers is to ask yourself what your end goal is. Are you interested in making a new connection? Are you pitching a story? Do you have a new client or are you expanding into a new industry where you don’t have any contacts? These questions should help guide you when looking for new influencers.

Take the Time to Know Your Influencers

Once you have narrowed down your search it’s time to learn a little bit more about your influencers. See what they have recently written. Start following them on Twitter or connect with them on LinkedIn. This helps them remember you when it comes time to pitch. Also, editors and reporters might tweet personal things like, “At my kid’s soccer game,” or “enjoying my vacation.” This is a good way to know that they probably aren’t going to have time to read or respond to your pitches. Interacting with an influencer on Twitter also helps when trying to achieve the elusive Twitter pitch. A Cision research survey of reporters and editors shows that, “Twitter pitches go smoothly when you have already engaged with the editor or reporter on Twitter.”


After you have done your homework it’s time to pitch. When pitching, whether it’s be email, phone or social media try to be as helpful as possible. Offer to schedule any additional interviews with a client/expert, be able to answer any questions he or she may have or even offer to write or package content for them. You want to make it as easy as possible when pitching your influencer. Also, as a  rule of thumb, never send attachments. Send everything in the body of an email. Editors and journalists do not have time to open your attachments and large attachment files may slow down their email.

Organizing your coverage

Once you have pitched your influencer and they have agreed to place your coverage make sure you ask them when you can expect it to appear. Do this for every piece of content you place regardless of how big or small the coverage is. Gather the coverage and organize it neatly and concisely in a coverage report. This shows you client ROI. 

Finding the Right Social Influencers



To expand reach and network, your company needs to find key social influencers. Building relationships is the basis of getting your brand out there.

Social Influencers are everywhere and are not bound by employment with traditional news sources. Social influencers are important because they are able to cover news faster than many traditional news sources – and they can reach a larger audience. A group of social influencers is called a tribe. A tribe is a group of persons having common character, occupation or interest.

How to Find Followers

You probably know – and have already found – several influencers in your field. Once you have those influencers see how they are following, talking to and referencing. Look at their tweets. Who are they retweeting? Who are they following? Look at their blogs. Who are they mentioning and collaborating with?

There are also sites and programs designed specifically for finding new influencers.

• Cision – social influencers search

• Triberr – suggestions based on content/ interests and joined tribes

• GoogleAMP

• Twitter- suggestions based on who your followers follow

Finding your Niche Community

Once you find relevant followers, you need to find the right community.  This community should consist of passionate followers.  Although many companies strive to increase their number of followers, the real importance is not the quantity of your influencers but the quality. You want influencers that are passionate about the same things you are.  When looking for influencers, be specific. 

Once you find influencers

After you have found influencers try to build good relationships with them. Remember, this takes time.  Don’t ignore the little guys either.  You want to build relationships with people that are passionate in your industry.  Reach out to these influencers on social media. Remember the rule of thirds. One-third of your posts should be about yourself, one-third of your posts should be sharing other’s content and one-third of your posts should be interacting with your social media audience.

Empower your community

Allow your followers and employees to put their own spin on your story. This gives it a more honest value. Viewers and influencers like to hear storytelling, not shameless self-promotion. This also gives the community ownership of the message and will help you get the commitment of your followers. 


Some journalists and influencers complain about misdirected pitches and will even go so far to blacklist certain PR professionals. Before reaching out to an influencer makes you ask yourself these questions:

What is my goal?

What is my target audience?

How visual is my story?

Is my idea timely?

Once you have answered those questions make sure you know who your audience is, be brief and customize your pitch to your audience. 





PR: There’s an App for That

Almost everyone has a smart phone, most likely compete with tons of downloaded apps.  I recently sat in on a discussion about which mobile apps are most useful for PR industry pros from Cision.  Here is the top ten list:

1.     Bump

Bump is like a virtual business card that allows you to swap info with people just by launching the app and then physically “bumping” your phones together.  It’s perfect if you’re on a time crunch and want to make a quick connection.

2.     CardMunch

This app allows you to take pictures of business cards and convert them into contacts right into your address book. The top perk to this app is that it will also show you LinkedIn profile information as well as any connections you have in common.

3.     Dropbox

This is a very popular and free service that lets you store/access your photos, docs and videos anywhere and share them easily. It’s so convenient to pull files your Dropbox account from your phone and share with others on the go.

 4.     Evernote

The Evernote app helps you remember your ideas, projects and experiences across all the computers, phones and tablet platforms you may use.  It captures text, photos and audio and then synchs it via the cloud.  These files can then be shared, edited and used to collaborate with your co-workers.

5.     TweetDeck and HootSuite

Either of these two apps are a great way to keep track of journalists’ feeds and also handy when you need to manage your Twitter/Facebook presence while travelling.  As far as layouts go, it’s really a Coke vs. Pepsi thing.

6.     Yammer

Yammer is an enterprise social network service and is used for private communication within organizations and pre-designated groups. This is a private way to collaborate with your co-workers and send them messages.

7.     Google Analytics (mobile)

This app gives you instant, mobile access to your Google Analytics.  It’s perfect if you’re travelling but still need to report back to the office about how a post is doing.

8.     Word Press

This app is compatible with almost every operating system.  For this reason, it’s a great way to update any blog on the go.  This is awesome if you are blogging from a trade show and want to share timely updates.

 9.     Tripit

If you travel frequently, this app is a lifesaver.  It basically takes and organizes all of your trip details (flight, car rental, reservations and anticipated weather) and puts them in one place where you can share those details with others and print out your tickets.

10.  Media Database Apps

If you need to look up a media contact and you aren’t by a computer, it’s helpful if the media database service you use has a downloadable app.   MyMediaInfo, CisionPoint and Vocus are among those that have them. Great for a last-minute pitch.

Do you have any good apps to add to this list?

Follow me @saraalisia




Stop the Madness: Spray and Pray

As a general rule, before I pick up the phone to pitch a media contact, I know their name, have researched the outlet, skimmed through recent stories the journalist has written and have an idea of why they would want to hear my pitch in the first place.  This ladies and gentlemen, is the art of romancing the media.

It’s surprising how many PR professionals still operate with the old “spray and pray” method, thinking that quantity pitching rules over quality pitching.

In fact, I just read a great white paper by Cision When in Doubt that outlines the very reasons why we PR pros shouldn’t do that.  The most important lesson you can learn in this industry is to research everything you possibly can about the outlet/beat of the person you’re pitching.  In all honesty, those that skip this huge step really do damage to themselves and the company they represent. They also do big disservice to industry as a whole.

It just gives PR a bad name. We want the media to see us as a valuable resource, not as annoying spammers.  I’m sure it would be maddening for a real estate reporter to continuously get pitched to cover the latest beauty product.

Researching the details is more time consuming, but the paybacks are better quality and even quantity coverage.

Aside from doing research before you send anything to or contact the media I have a couple of suggestions I’ve picked up from my experiences for when I pitch and follow up on the phone:

  • Check out editorial calendars.  These can be a gold mine.  Even if they aren’t interested in covering your news now, it could be perfect for them at a later date.  Follow up.
  • When you call to follow up, instead of going straight to your pitch, introduce yourself and ask what they are working on. It could be in connection to what you’re pitching. Use your discretion if they sound hurried. By being natural, conversational and not just pushing your pitch, you earn their ear and respect.
  • But be ready to deliver the main points of your pitch in less than 20 seconds.   More often than not you will run into an editor that has no time for nonsense.  Prepare for that.

Of course don’t leave out social media as another avenue for media outreach. It offers valuable insights into what journalists’ are writing about and their interests.

Above all, know that if you continue to spray and pray, it may take a few reporters giving you a piece of their minds before you never again forget to research before you reach out.


Are You Guilty of the Intent to Distribute? (A press release without media?)

Like PB&J, press releases taste better with media

What’s Sonny without Cher? Tom without Jerry?  Or peanut butter without jelly?  Split any of these duos and you get only half their combined potential.  This is my thought process as I’m distributing a press release without accompanying media.  When pitching a news release I know I’ve got about 5 seconds to get the media’s attention.  Otherwise it quickly becomes digital trash.  But, if the release includes any picture/video/audio, it doubles my chances of getting it noticed.   Sometimes, these resources aren’t always available to me and it never fails:  I’ll send a release out by its lonesome and in come the requests for images. This is where any campaign can lose major momentum. Here’s why:

It’s all in the preparation, or lack thereof. One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is not generating the appropriate visual/audio media for its PR efforts.  To fully do our job as PR professionals we need these tools.  The pitching landscape has changed too much; it’s not enough anymore to send out a traditional two-page press release.   Now, journalists are looking for these releases to be a resource full of information like audio files, links to pictures, videos, extra quotes and even previous, relative news releases.  It’s a refreshingly simpler format where bullet points and links to media are king; it’s not editorialized and gets right to the point.  This has been dubbed the social media press release (SMPR).

More and more PR pros are picking up on the value of SMPR’s.  But to create one is a two-way street between PR firm and its client.  As a client, make it a priority to get quality photos of every project/product you want to be pitched. Grab sound bites from your SME’s and take video of that groundbreaking.  Create official accounts on YouTube and Flickr in order to host the media.  Next step: hand it all over to your PR firm. I’ll breathe a sigh of relief and do the rest.

Follow me @SaraAlisia

Elusive Media and the Twit Pitches

I’ve been working on a small campaign pitching media in the New York area this week.  Normally, New York isn’t exactly my favorite market to pitch because everyone seems especially in a hurry to rush you off the phone and will promptly tell you so.   Anyone who has ever worked in public relations knows the frustration of unanswered email pitches and dodged phone calls.

I’ve had a well-known-expert in the field tell me to stick to a well-crafted email pitch and leave the Twitter pitches alone.  Well, as they say…variety is the spice of life.  This week I got frustrated and decided to Tweet the reporters I had been trying to reach.  To my surprise, three of the five people I reached out to responded to me within minutes.  I used a casual yet informative approach-all within 140 characters.  There really isn’t an official guide to the Twitter pitch, but I can say, any links you have that can take them back to the press release/photo/video etc… are the best, especially when you’re working with limited characters.

So what’s the moral of the story?  Try it!  Tweet your pitches.  What’s the worst that can happen besides getting no response? Come on, we’re all used to that by now.  Tell me, what experiences have you had with Twit pitching?

follow me @SaraAlsia

Winding Up… And Here Is My

Pitch! Funny that word: pitch. It embodies what I do. I’m not just “throwing it out there,” I’m aiming for awesome coverage, a home run! While I was always the last one picked for teams in gym class, the PR pitch is one I can do.

Recently I sat in on a conference call moderated by the PR guru Peter Shankman himself. He invited reporters from top publications like The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Crain’s to ask them about pitching preferences and what catches their attention. Cha ching! Goldmine! (No, this had nothing to with my crush on Peter Shankman; I was genuinely interested in stepping up my pitching game.)

Peter Shankman of HARO

Anyway, I took away five lessons from this conference call:

1. Not knowing a reporter and what they write about- Avoid this PR faux pas at any cost. Pitching blindly, especially to top level journalists is insulting to them. Not to mention it could ruin your chances of getting any coverage with them in the future.

2. Not identifying a news peg immediately- These guys want to know “why now?” Is it part of a broader trend? Is it happening in the news? Tell them why they should care or you will probably strike out.

3. Writing a book instead of a hook- Journalists generally don’t have a ton of time to stop and read a long email pitch. Craft one that identifies the news hook right away; and only say it’s exclusive if it really is. Remember…bullet points are your friend and don’t exceed three paragraphs. They want the pitch you would tell your friends over some beers.

4. Entitling an email- “quick question”- it’s hard to get a reporter to respond to a pitch… believe me I know. It can be tempting to do this, but the truth is-they know you‘re just trying to pitch them. Be upfront and give it to them straight. Ask them what they are working on and if you can be of any assistance.

5. Not following up- While most prefer email nowadays, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. A good motto I like to follow: There is always someone more annoying than you.

So much more was discussed in the conference call that was helpful to me, so I hope you can use this too. You’re welcome and happy pitching!

– SG