The headline is actually a trick question. There is no such thing as the perfect pitch. But, just because the perfect pitch doesn’t exist it doesn’t mean you can’t write a really great pitch.
Sometimes, even if you have a very good pitch, you may still not get the hit you or your client expected. Writing the pitch is just one step in the process to securing a stellar placement that will earn your client’s appreciation and you a little bit of breathing room until the next project comes along.
The following steps create the nearly perfect pitch formula:
Preparation. A good pitch should only be sent to a good contact who covers the topic you are pitching. Take the time to research journalists who have written similar stories or have a strong interest in your topic. Be familiar with what the journalist has written recently and find a way to relate your pitch as a follow up to that story. Spend some time looking at the reporter’s blog or Twitter account to learn their interests to customize your pitch.
Presentation. Keep your pitch brief and conversational. If the reporter has to read beyond the first two or three sentences to figure out if your pitch is relevant, then you’ve likely lost their interest and your chance at the “perfect” pitch. Tell them what you’re offering and why they should care. Being brief also leaves the editor wanting more. If you’ve piqued their curiosity, chances are the editor will reach out to learn more. Make the call to action easy on the editor. If you want them to read a press release or product description, include a link to the client’s newsroom, but do not add an attachment. Before I move on, I don’t need to tell PR professionals to proofread the pitch before hitting “send,” right? Good, that’s what I thought.
Timing. Everyone knows you should try to avoid distributing a press release on a Friday – but what about sending a pitch? I actually had some success when pitching a Fast Company editor on a Friday afternoon. My theory is perhaps the editor was less stressed with the weekend on the horizon and maybe looking for a distraction from watching the seconds slowly tick by. Honestly, the best time to pitch really does vary from journalist to journalist. I guarantee if you look through your emails at your successes, you won’t find a pattern for what day/time saw the most victories. Best practice is to be aware of their deadlines and work around them.
Follow up. Don’t be afraid to follow up, but don’t be a pest either. If you’ve gotten no response, wait a few days and send a short and sharp follow-up email such as “Any interest in an interview?” A good way to get on the journalist’s good side is to offer something extra - extra interviews, extra statistics or extra information. Similar to the timing of your pitch, your timing for following up will vary. Still, ALWAYS avoid bothering a journalist who is on deadline.
Unfortunately, sometimes you can do everything right and you still won’t get the placement you were hoping for. Journalists receive hundreds of emails everyday so your pitch may end up in the trash – more so if you’re sending trash. However, you can improve your chances of reaching a reporter by doing your homework and spending the time to draft a proper pitch. Once you begin to establish relationships with journalists you may have to turn them down when they come to you with a story idea. What are some unique pitching methods have you used to score the perfect placement?