Media pitch words of wisdom
I’m not only an author, but I’ve been working in the media for the past 17 years. I’m the founder, publisher, and editor of a digital magazine; I’ve written for many publications and have been on staff at newspapers and magazines. Prior to that, I had a career in marketing. So, when it comes to media, I’ve been around the block a few times. From experience, I can tell you that media pros receive hundreds of inquiries every day. It’s nearly impossible to get to all of them, and the fact is, most of them are totally irrelevant. Yes, it’s true — authors, bloggers, business people, even PR professionals and overzealous marketers often don’t do their homework. You know what happens then? Most (if not all) of these inquiries end up in spam, junk, or trash folders. We’re all incredibly busy, so let’s make the time we spend meaningful – for all parties.
Bad media pitch
Over the years, I’ve seen/heard countless media pitches. I can tell you that probably 95% are irrelevant to my pub. People don’t do their homework. They do things like, look up every newspaper and magazine in their area, and flood them all with press releases and “publish this now!” type messages. I publish a magazine about Greeks around the world doing amazing things, with some history, culture, and heritage mixed in. You wouldn’t believe how many pitches I get requesting links or to publish articles about what to look for in pest control services, top amusement parks, the “best hand cream ever!”, “Taco Tuesday” recipes, how to make Kwanzaa cards, the city’s favorite German beers, etc. Really?
Seriously, I get hundreds of these emails. I even get ones from Greek people that ask me to write about their client who is not Greek and has no ties or interest in the Greek community. We have a specific editorial focus, and those sure don’t fit it.
I even get ones that found an article about Greek honey, and send emails that say, “Our sites are about the exact same subject!” Not even close.
Get my pro tips
Now, some of this may come across harsh, but if you want to be successful with your media pitch, you’ll want to use this list. Your time is valuable too, so why waste it?
Now, let’s make yours a SUCCESSFUL media pitch. Let’s go!
Top 10 tips for a successful media pitch
- Do your homework FIRST. Don’t send mass emails to every media outlet you can find. That’s a great way for your message to end up in the trash! Do your homework. Read the publication – and not just one article. Check the editorial guidelines. Become familiar with the publication and send a personalized message. Cite an article that resonated with you and tell why. Talk briefly about your project and explain why your project is a fit. Don’t waste your time and theirs if there isn’t one. They WILL remember. Also keep in mind that newspapers and magazines are different. Magazines typically have a specific editorial focus, while newspapers report news. When you find a pub that you think is a fit, be sure you follow the other items on this list before you click send.
- Determine if it’s a win-win. We know what’s in it for you – the opportunity to publish, build your platform, sell a product or service, and reach new audiences – but what’s in it for the publication? Think about that BEFORE you send your query. If your project doesn’t serve the pub’s readers and advertisers, it’s not a win-win. NOTE: even if the publisher and/or editor know you, their first allegiance is always to readers and advertisers.
- Follow the submission guidelines. Don’t just fire off a press release and say, “publish this”. Maybe they don’t publish press releases (there are valid reasons why this isn’t prudent, especially online). Don’t send a link to an article you wrote and say, “You have to post this on your site!” (Did you ever hear about duplicate content? Not good for SEO!) Editors are busy. There are submission guidelines for a reason – to help them sift through inquiries quickly – and to test you. They want to know that you’re paying attention, that you did your due diligence. Because they have such full plates, they’re also trying to weed out those irrelevant pitches. When you send a blind query and ignore submission guidelines, it sends the message that you couldn’t care less that they are busy. If there aren’t any submission guidelines available, still do your homework and make sure your project fits their editorial focus. Respect their time.
- Don’t pester the editor. The squeaky wheel does NOT get the grease. What ends up happening is that you are filed away in their brain as a pest and someone who doesn’t respect them or their time. Your email address may even get blocked. If not, they WILL REMEMBER, and your emails will always end up in the trash. Editors do talk, and you don’t want them to speak negatively of you. This will ruin your chances of future publication.
- Offer something of value to the editor. If you want to get a clipping, pitch an article that fits the publication and doesn’t sell you or your product/service. You just might get your name out there and establish yourself as an expert– read: platform building! – and create some goodwill. This is a win-win, because you will get a published piece to add to you portfolio, and likely links to your website (read: new audience and traffic!). You helped them, now they helped you. You’re building a relationship. Here’s another approach: ask the editor is he or she is seeking writers. You will write for the publication – following their guidelines, assignments, and deadlines – as a platform builder for you, or even in exchange for advertising. If you’re an author, maybe you ask if they need a book reviewer, or someone to write about the latest books. If you’re an attorney, maybe you can write a column about legal issues; discuss what the focus might be – Q&A, specific to an ethnic group or community, etc. Read #2 again. Keep in mind that small publications have limited resources and likely can’t pay writers. Be creative. Don’t demand pay. It’s OK to ask if they compensate writers. If they say yes and ask your rate, don’t overprice yourself and your piece. Find out in advance what the going rate is. If your rate it 50% higher, it doesn’t give the impression that you’re a more experienced pro. In fact, it screams the opposite. You may consider a lower introductory rate to get your foot in the door. Remember, you’re trying to build a relationship.
- Subscribe to the mailing list and STAY on it. This is a great tactic for many reasons. One, you get to know the editor and/or staff in a more personal way. Next, as a subscriber, you may learn things that the public doesn’t know. It’s a great way to cultivate that relationship. Read the newsletters and then engage with the publication. Don’t talk about you in the beginning. Tell them that something was relevant to you or spoke to you. Also, DON’T unsubscribe. We can see who’s unsubscribing and why. If you want to build a relationship, be noticed, and stand out from the tons of inquiries they receive, you need to stay on the list. You need to learn more. And, if you’re hoping to get coverage or any attention for a future project, DO NOT send a personal note and say, “I unsubscribed because this isn’t relevant to me. Good luck,” and then when your project comes to fruition and you’re looking for PR opportunities, come back and say, “Hey remember me? You must give me coverage!” Editors remember. Don’t burn the bridge!
- Take no for an answer. See #1 and #4. This may be why you’re always getting the no. Also, ask yourself, “Is the timing right?” Maybe the editorial calendar is already set. Perhaps the staff is so busy that they don’t have a writer to put on a story. Maybe it’s irrelevant to their pub. There are countless reasons you’re getting the no. If they respond, listen carefully to the why. If it’s timing, it’s OK to ask, “Can I contact you again next quarter?” If it’s that the subject matter isn’t relevant, ask how you can do better in the future. They may send you a link to editorial or submission guidelines, or they may even take the time to explain. When that happens, you know they’ve filed you away in their brain as courteous, thoughtful, and respectful. They’ll remember.
- Don’t send blind emails asking for a link. Did you introduce yourself, your project, and why the publication should know your business, organization, article, etc.? Did you offer something in return, or just say, “Great article! I saw you linked to X article, but mine is way better. You should link mine.” Likely, your email will go right to trash. Editors receive an infinite number of these inquiries. First, you should know that the author of the article chose the links with a purpose. The editor allows the links if they are relevant, a reputable source, and are needed to explain something or provide further info. Both may not be familiar with you or your project or piece, and so a blind inquiry will get you nowhere. Don’t ask to buy a link before you check things out. You’ll have to do some homework before you pitch that. If you don’t get an answer, one follow-up is fair, because things do get lost in the shuffle. If you don’t hear back, that means you need to do some more homework, move on, OR accept that your pitch is irrelevant to that pub.
- Stay in touch. If an editor said no, ask if you can drop them a line once and a while to tell them what you’re up to. They’ll appreciate the courtesy. If they say there’s no fit, you know what to do. Refer to #4 and #7.
- Ask before you send a physical or digital product. Even if the publication has previously reviewed a book or product or written about your business or organization, don’t just send things out blind. ASK FIRST. For example, I receive on average 6 books for review every month, and I can’t possibly get to them all. There’s a note on our book submission guidelines that says, “We aren’t accepting any books for review at this time”. When a book arrives in the mail unsolicited, it tells me that person didn’t take the time to check or was lazy. Check submission guidelines first! Send an email BEFORE you send any products. If they can’t review it in the near future, save your review copies, your time, your money in shipping. Ask when’s a good time to check back.
Before you make your media pitch
You’re not ready to click send yet! Craft a thoughtful introduction to the editor. Tell them who you are and why they should take note. Be brief! Explain what’s in it for them.
If you’re working with small publications, you might take a chance and after your brief introduction, ask to get on a call to chat for 10 minutes. If they accept, you have the opportunity to set the stage for your pitch (and future pitches!) and then it’s not cold. Your trying to establish a relationship. If it’s an ongoing one – even better!
How about a couple of bonus tips?
BONUS TIP #1:
If your media pitch is accepted, and an editor sends you questions, answer them promptly. DO NOT miss a deadline. If the editor contacts you and says, “A spot opened for tomorrow and I want to include you” – RUN! Don’t try to micromanage it, don’t say “I’ll get back to you later”, or attempt to pre-qualify everything. in other words, don’t give them a reason to rescind the offer and contact someone else. THEY WON’T ASK AGAIN.
BONUS TIP #2:
If the editor asks for images in png, don’t send a pdf. If the editor agrees to trade an ad for an article, submit the ad and the piece BEFORE the deadline. And DO NOT ACCEPT AN ASSIGNMENT and then not send it — barring an emergency. They will not ask again.
Now, are you truly ready to make your media pitch? Happy pitching and good luck!
Questions? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org