No one said pitching media and getting press coverage was easy. By avoiding these six common mistakes you are ahead of the crowd and significantly increase your chances of getting your media pitches picked up.
1. Contacting the wrong person
No matter how good your product or service, how fascinating a headline you have crafted and how fun and interesting your pitch is: if you send it to the wrong person it will not be read. It is as simple as that. So do your research. Make sure you pitch the appropriate person. First, make sure you get the right media outlet. Second get the right person at that media outlet: someone who only covers tech start ups will not cover your beauty salon and vice versa.
2. Not having an USP
You can’t just write a pitch on any old subject. It has to be interesting and it needs an USP, a unique selling point. What is so special about your product or service? Why should anyone write about it right now? Is it new? Is it exciting? Does it change anyone’s life? Remember, journalists and editors get flooded by pitches and they will pick the best ones. So make yours good, make it interesting and make sure you have something that is worth writing about. If all you have is a regular old product launch, tie it into something. For instance, is it a back to school item, or would it make the perfect father’s day gift? If your product doesn’t have an inherent USP,invent one!
3. Sending a badly formatted and written pitch
No one likes to be the recipient of ill thought out and badly edited material. This cannot be stressed enough. Spell-check, proofread and proofread again. Badly written pitches with spelling and grammatical mistakes will not lead to coverage.
4. Forgetting the basics
You would be surprised at how many pitches that start out strong, interesting and catchy only to fall flat in the end simply because the author forgot to include all the basics about the product or service being pitched. Here’s the thing: journalists are very busy, and sometimes they are lazy. They want you to do their work for them. So include all the relevant information so the journalist does not have to do anything but copy/paste. Include prices, products, how to and where to find everything. Always include links to press images and all relevant information. Don’t include long, illegible links, use a link shortener if need be (www.bitly.com is one). And always, always include your name, title and your contact information.
5. Being rude and impolite
This might sound superfluous but again, you’d be surprised. Remember you want a favor from the journalist, not the other way around. So be polite. Don’t be overly familiar. Don’t act like you are BFF’s. Write a to the point, polite and friendly pitch. Don’t beg, don’t brag, just pitch your product or service and offer, politely, a free review sample or whatever you are in a position to offer. Then wait, don’t badger the journalist straight away and give it at least a week before you contact them again. If they still aren’t replying, drop it; they are not interested, at least not now. Try again in six months.
6. Being too late
Keep in mind that media works within strict time frames, especially TV and magazines. They simply can’t cover something on a whim. So if you pitch something that is for example relevant to back to school on August 30th, it will most likely not be picked up by anyone. If you pitch the same thing in June, you increase the likelihood. You see magazines plan way ahead. So always try to find out when a certain media usually covers a certain topic and pitch them in good time so they will actually have a chance to cover your news. For example, most magazines usually do their Christmas gift list segments at the same time each year, so find out when they did it last year. Same goes for TV and newspapers. After all, timing is everything!
Johanna Denize is a journalist and entrepreneur who covers media and PR at www.PRsquid.com. PRsquid supplies easy to use, affordable media contact lists for all genres and media outlets in the US and abroad.
Image courtesy Will Folsom