My first pitch to the news media came in 1989. I don’t recall if it was by mail, phone, or fax. There was no e-mail back then. But even three decades later, regardless of how you deliver your pitch, the rules are the same – find the right person at a targeted media outlet, contact them with a short, focused, timely pitch. If one method, say phone or email, doesn’t work, try another, such as mail, social media, or messenger. Simple enough, right. Well…
Amazingly, the media receives more pitches than it can handle, and of those it bothers to read or listen to, few are very good or on point. With several hundred thousand professional promoters out there – along with millions of authors, celebrities, institutions, businesses, politicians, non-profits, schools, and government agencies pitching the news media, there is a lot of crap floating around. Why, you ask?
The motive to get PR is simple: It’s one of these at play -- always:
- MONEY – sell something.
- EGO – pride of fame.
- POLITICS -- persuade people on an issue.
- HELP – serve the community/public service.
There’s a lot at stake in the world. Competition is fierce, whether to sell a product, get a job, elect someone to office, or get people to donate money. PR is the first step for someone to seek to influence the masses.
Unfortunately, out of desperation, low morals, lack of training, or brutish pride, there are a lot of bad tactics employed to share lousy pitches to the media. Don’t make these mistakes:
1. Never send a very long pitch. Be prepared to say what you need to say in 20 seconds or state it in a letter of no more than 4-5 short paragraphs (which should include bullet points and answer the who-what-when-where-why-how).
2. Do not send the same exact pitch to everyone on your media list. Customize it to the media outlet, the type of beat covered, or a specific journalist-producer.
3. Stop pitching yourself. Pitch a story. Your persona can show through it and your credentials are important, but the media wants to know WHAT will be discussed and WHY now?
4. Avoid cold-sending attachments. Spam filters may gobble what journalists don’t just delete without opening.
5. Don’t ask the media for a favor. They are not there to be your friend, serve your needs, or build your brand. They want what will help their career, meet the demographics of their patrons and advertisers, and serve society well. They hate bullshit, begging, or getting nothing new to work with.
6. Think of pitching media the way you want someone to leave you a voicemail. You don’t want a whole story on your answering machine for two minutes – you want people to get to the point and leave contact information. Don’t make the media search for basic details and do not blitz them with links to a zillion things. They simply don’t have time to play detective and investigate all of this stuff.
7. Never bribe them or suggest compensation for their coverage. You will offend them.
8. Know the media outlet and media person before you pitch it and them. Showing you know nothing about them is a quick line to the waste basket.
9. Don’t present a generic angle to a common story – highlight your uniqueness to an interesting story.
10. Do not risk alienating or offending the media with an insensitive joke, comment, or story idea. Avoid race, religion, sex, and politics – unless that’s what your book is about.
11. Don’t lie, make false claims, or throw out crazy accusations that are baseless. The media likes some controversy but they don’t want to boost irresponsible statements from unknown nut jobs.
12. If you mail something, do not pack and tape it so well that one needs a saw to open it. Rely less on fancy packaging or give-away premiums, and more on the substance of a good pitch.
13. Do not pitch an exclusive to more than one media outlet in the same medium until one says yes or no.
14. Make sure you can backup any claims that you make and never do a bait and switch headline where the pitch has little or nothing to do with the headline.
15. Don’t bore the media. Your pitch should be lively with snappy vocabulary words that reflect the level of subject matter being presented. Avoid clichés, profanity, or extremist propaganda statements.
16. Don’t send a pitch until you have done your homework and fact-checked your message. Make sure you use reliable sources to quote facts/stats.
17. Do not be impolite. Write please, thank you, and hello.
18. Avoid sending a pitch that wasn’t proofread. Nothing gets tossed faster than a misspelled or illiterate pitch.
19. Avoid pitching the media anything if you are posting inappropriate content on social media or if your website looks like crap. They will check you out. You need to have a good brand.
20. Avoid repetition in a short pitch – that means don’t state or restate the same thing and don’t keep using the same words (vary them). Also, don’t include images that are ambiguous or deemed sexist, racist, or anti-Semitic.
21. Lastly, don’t act as if what you say is superior, stated for the first time, or so insightful – unless it really is. See if others are saying what you say. Be careful in your bid to stick out or sound confident – you may be seen as a braggart and a blowhard.
The good news here – so many people provide bad media pitches. Good ones can still stick out. Go for it!
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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at email@example.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent. This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.
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