There's a reason many small business owners toil for hours - even days - creating the "perfect pitch": because often that email (or phone call) is the one thing that stands between your business and your big break. That said, most of you have spent years perfecting your products, services or expertise, not your PR skills. Totally understandable. That's why we here at Tin Shingle help you fill in the cracks of your knowledge base to give you a firm foundation in public relations including tips to make your pitches shine.
To be sure the media #1 - actually open your pitches and #2 - read them and finally #3 - act on them and turn them into stories about you and your brand, be sure you're applying these rules to your pitch creation when applicable. Remember, not every tip works with every pitch, so find the ones that work for you and test them out!
Test Using A Media Contact's Name in Your Subject Line (to Show Your Email was Created for Them):
This is a tactic some publicists use and some don't, but if you're trying to get more people to open your emails it's worth a test because it shows the email recipient that you aren't spamming or mass emailing, and instead are writing just them. What do I mean by this tip? Here's an example:
Sarah: 5 Dog Safety Tips for Summer Every Family Must Know
For Jackie: How to Avoid and Treat Poison Ivy and Oak
Matt: What Fox News Viewers Need to Know About "Fat Free" Foods
Another reason this often gets your contact's attention is because people are automatically drawn to their own name and may open it for that reason alone. When your email is one of 200 someone gets in a day, this tactic cannot hurt, and we recommend you test it out. You'll soon learn it works for some, and may not work as well for other contacts, but it is definitely worth a try!
Define the story you are sharing in just one sentence:
No matter how long the pitch is (and it shouldn't be too long) be sure whether you're emailing or calling about your story that the main idea of the pitch is summarized in one sentence. Sure you will have supporting material in it, and bullet points of your unique selling points or angles but the gist of your pitch should not take more than one sentence to convey. Bonus tip: this sentence should be within the first few sentences of the entire pitch or you will lose the attention of the press reading it.
Bring in Actual Fans of Your Brand:
If you are pitching a feature about your business, offer to provide actual users of your service or product for the media to interview. For places like television this will help flesh out the story, add more "meat" to it while also adding credibility and validation. It also makes it appear less like an infomercial starring you and more of a full story. You can offer the same thing to bloggers and editors of magazines and newspapers. Remember, this is best used for feature stories about your business (highlighting your products or services). This won't be necessary in product pitches as there is rarely any room for this type of insight in them.
Think & Explain What You Can Add to the Story Visually:
A picture or video enhances any story whether it's on television, in a blog or in a magazine. When you're brainstorming and then writing your pitch be sure you make it clear that a news station can shoot video and pictures for this story OR that there are video or pictures you can provide them with. For instance, maybe the press can film you making your cheese, maybe you can share a video demonstrating your baby products being used with "live babies", maybe you can stage a fashion show with other local designers showing off your wares, maybe you can mix cocktail concoctions featuring your mixers or drinks...Don't make the press think of these things, offer it from in your initial pitch!
Highlight trends or studies your pitch or story will be an example of in the subject line and the body of the pitch:
Trends and the studies that support them that your are a part of or example of really help lock in pitches. Piggybacking on a hot trend or study is a great way to get buzz and the spotlight on your business without making it look like your pitch is actually all about your business. Scan headlines, studies and news sites related to your type of business regularly to find examples of these that you can attach yourself to in a pitch. Also, think outside the box when you do this! It could be a trend or study tied to your product's niche but it could also be one tied to working moms (or dads), entrepreneurs, local businesses and so forth! Scan for stories like this at least once a week if you can, no less than once a month!
Have someone else read your subject line & pitch before you send it:
This person can be a team member at work, a friend or even another small biz owner (perhaps set up a "proofread partnership" with someone). Beyond them looking for errors ask them these three questions and tell them to be brutally honest: Do the first couple of sentences hook you in and make it clear what I’m pitching? Is the pitch easy to follow and the angle clear?" and Is this pitch too long? (hint: no pitch can ever be too short if you get all the info in there someone needs). Take their advice to heart and make edits you feel are necessary. What we think "makes sense" to us isn't always what makes sense to other people, and letting these people give you insight before you hit send will increase your chances of someone opening your pitch and acting on it!
Avoid pitching the press on Fridays if you can:
Definitely avoid pitching them on Friday afternoon. They are most likely wrapping up other deadlines from the week or mentally out the door (especially in the summer when summer Fridays reign) and your pitch will be lost in their email, then buried under even more email they get the rest of the day Friday, during the weekend and on Monday morning. Instead use Fridays to research and prepare your pitches. One caveat here is if you have a relationship with an editor or producer already OR if they have made it clear they love Friday pitches. I have yet to meet more than a handful of members of the press who do.