There is a reason so many pitches get rejected by the media. On average, the media rejects 95% of pitches they get. How can you become part of the 5% that get picked up for a story? First, you need to know the reasons why pitches get rejected. Keep in mind these aren’t the only reasons, but certainly the majority of them:
Uninteresting email subject lines: Often your pitch is judged by the subject line. Make it something interesting, make it a headline or risk getting relegated to the delete bin.
Long emails: I don’t know about you, but I hate reading long emails. The media hates it even more - in fact many of my media friends have told me that if they have to scroll through a pitch, they often won’t consider it unless it comes from a very trusted source. How long is too long? If you can read it on the screen without scrolling down, you’re in good shape.
Non-compelling topics: You won’t get attention for your topic just because you pitch it. It has to be timely, unique, and relevant to the audience they serve. Think HUH: Hip, Unique, and Helpful.
An opened email isn’t always a sure bet: Even if your email gets opened, it might still get deleted. Here’s why: For all of the above reasons. Create a tight, focused pitch that isn’t too long and stays on topic. This will increase your chances that the media will read it through.
Not relevant: What I mean by this is that it’s not relevant to the audience the media outlet serves. Don’t think for a minute that just because you find it interesting and compelling that your media target will. For example, I once had an author tell me about the amazing world of fly fishing, and then insist that Oprah would be interested in this topic. Really? I think not so much. Watch the show, listen to the broadcast, or read the blog or publication – before pitching.
A false sense of urgency: Often I find that folks pitching, in order to get noticed, will call upon a false sense of urgency. Yes, it’s urgent that we fix our school systems. Yes, it’s urgent that we clean up the environment. Neither of these things is going to blow up tomorrow so don’t pitch them as though they are. While it might make for a more compelling pitch, it will only serve to paint you as an unreliable and often excitable source. Neither of these is good.
Unknown senders: An unknown source or sender may be considered an unreliable one. It’s easy enough to get to know the media long before you start pitching, and I highly recommend that you do so.
Now, let’s look at 30 things you can do to make yourself, and your pitches, irresistible to the media!
- Start early and Focus on Relationships.
- Connect on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn: get to know your media, connect with any local and national reporters, journalists, and news people via these social sites so you can get to know them.
- Comment on postings via Twitter and Facebook: comment on their postings and news when appropriate.
- Facebook birthdays: this is a great way to connect to everyone on your list, especially media. Wish them a happy birthday, they’ll appreciate it.
- Watch those Twitter hashtags: as you follow your media, you’ll start to see a trend of most-used Twitter hashtags, I highly recommend you follow them so you can see who else is talking about the story.
- Blog about them on your site, referencing a recent story they did.
- Comment on their stories, whether it’s on their site or on their media site.
- Sign up for Helpareporter.com (HARO) and respond to stories appropriate to your topic.
- Get to know your smaller, regional publications, and also trade publications. Both of these tend to be easier to get to and could offer you some exposure well in advance of your book launch.
- Get to know your local radio hosts, or the hosts of stations you’ll be targeting. Especially in radio, it’s great to get connected to the broadcast people as early as you can. They also tend to be pretty accessible.
- Go to events where you know you might meet some media folk. This is often a great way to engage them on mutual ground. Attending the same event is a great way to start a dialog or relationship with the media.
- Practice your elevator pitch! What’s an elevator pitch? It’s a short, succinct description of your topic or pitch. Short enough to keep them interested (1-2 sentences) but long enough to tell the story, or at least the headline.
- Become a source for your target media: becoming a media source is something we’d all love to do. But this takes time. By getting to know your media, commenting on stories they write and letting them know your area of expertise, you might become one of their regular sources!
- Become a connector: be the person the media goes to for other experts as well. How do you do this? Whenever you introduce yourself to media, make sure they know your area of expertise and your ability to connect them to other experts who might be helpful as well.
- Every now and then, I will share a blog post with a journalist that I think will be helpful to them. I don’t do this a lot – just every once in a while.
Join us on April 7 for Part 2 of 30 Ways to Make Yourself Irresistible to the Media by Penny Sansevieri.