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Pitch journalists and influencers - in 10 steps

You’ve been busy building your list of media contacts. You gathered a list of people who may help you spreading the word about your business.

Now you want to start engaging journalists, bloggers and influencers - but how exactly?

Here are a few tips to pitch journalists and influencers in your industry.

1. Get their beat

A lot of reporters’ casual advice is to read what they write before you pitch them. That’s great but a generalization. To really do this job properly and make them not hate you, you should read them. I mean all the time. I mean make it your job to go through the archives a bit. Even if you’re skimming what they’ve done, at least know what their history is. Know them. Read their Twitter. I’m not saying to stalk them, but know more than the first page of what you get when you click their name.

Ed Zitron, CEO ez-pr.com

You need some information to decide how to approach the people in your list. What topics do they usually cover, and how? What’s their writing style?

Read what they write. Do it often. Add notes to your list.

You will use all the info you gather to customise your pitch. It’s good to do this with personalized input, such as showing how your pitch relates to a specific topic that’s relevant for them.

2. Let them know who you are

You can read a lot of articles on the Internet about how to be a journalist’s BFF and so on. This is not strictly necessary, though. You can develop an effective professional relationship just by showing respect. Here’s Jeff Bullas’ formula:

Show through your actions that you respect their work, business, time, and privacy.

Jeff Bullas

You can start by adding their publications to your RSS feed reader (Feedly, anyone?) and take some time every week to keep up with their articles.

In this way, you achieve 2 different goals:
  • you're always up-to-date with the news in your industry
  • you can start interacting with influential people.

Share the articles, leave comments, ask them questions on Twitter, connect them with other people. You’ll find new and unexpected ways to be helpful.

3. Write custom email pitches

A common advice is:

Personalised email pitches are good, they often show that the person sending them understands the outlet I work with and what we would be looking for.

Unfortunately, this advice is still often ignored. If you’re not happy with your pitch yet, you can just start from this 1-sentence template by Adeo Ressi of Founder’s Institute:

My company (name) is developing (offering) to help (target audience) (solve a problem) with (a secret sauce).

It can to be helpful in any situation - you never know when you pitch the next time.

4. Find the best time to reach out

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69% of journalists prefer to be pitched in the morning, according to BuzzStream research. Try to be the most recent email in their inbox when they check their email.

The first time you pitch by email, you’ll make an educated guess about the timing. When someone gets back to you, it’s ok to ask for their preferences so you can refine the data in your list and stop guessing.

5. Have your newsroom ready

Your pressroom is everything you need to back up your custom pitch. Keep your online pressroom up-to-date: it features your press releases, press kit, clippings, contacts and company info.

When someone gets interested in your story, you want to have all the necessary back-up information just one click away.

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6. Try, measure, repeat

Don’t let your most important outreach campaign be the first one. Prepare in advance and accept to fail a few times before you understand what works for you.

It’s like applying the idea of the lean startup to your media relations.

7. Answer promptly

When you finally get some traction, try to be available whenever a journalist needs you. If you stick to a 9-to-5 office routine you may miss the opportunity to help a reporter out when the deadline is close.

Also, it doesn’t look too good to pester someone during office hours and never check your email on evenings and weekends.

8. It's ok to ask

Once you exchange a few emails with someone, it’s ok to ask for their preferences. Is it true they prefer to be pitched in the morning? Is email the best way? How should you link to additional resources like presskit, press release, etc?

Any personal preference can be added to your list for further reference and can give you insights about journalists and influencers in your industry.

9. Be respectful

As mentioned at (2) - sometimes you don’t get results, for whatever reason. Get over it and move on.

Ain’t nobody got time for useless pitches, right?

10. Refine your strategy

PR is a marathon, not a sprint. Your list is not something you do once and use forever, it’s an ongoing project you need to refresh often.

Use networking moments to enlarge your list, take some time to read and comment on the latest articles by your favourite bloggers and journalists - they’re all in your feed reader now.

If you do this on a weekly basis, you’ll find out unexpected ways to be helpful and reach your goals at the same time.