Today, many of the methods PR professionals have long relied on to pitch the media aren't as effective as they once were, thanks to an industry that has dramatically changed over the last few years and that continues to evolve into unknown territory. In my last post I discussed how PR professionals must tailor the way they reach out to journalists as newsrooms are operating on fewer and fewer people, but there’s another major development that has changed the face of PR: the rise of blogging.
Soon after I began working in PR, I repeatedly started hearing that pitching bloggers required a different approach than pitching professional journalists. People said that in order to form relationships with bloggers, you had to work harder to gain their trust and prove that you genuinely had an interest in their work and that you were familiar with what they covered. It wasn’t until I began my own blog, though, that I realized just how true this was. I soon found myself being pitched many times per day and began developing a clearer understanding of what it was like to be on “the other side.”
As someone who both pitches and is pitched on a regular basis, I've come to notice a few key elements of the most successful PR messages, or the pitches that are most likely to lead to productive relationships and coverage. While these are especially true for bloggers, they also apply to many of today's overworked journalists who have to be more selective about which story ideas they pursue.
- Being familiar with the publication and coverage – This has always been important when pitching journalists, and it’s even more important when pitching bloggers. There’s no doubt that properly researching every outlet you pitch is hard work and very time consuming, but there’s also no doubt that it’s becoming more and more necessary. When I glance at a pitch for my site that clearly indicates the sender is familiar with what I do, I almost always appreciate receiving the message and respond – even if I can’t use the information. Most bloggers are immersed in their topic of interest almost all day, every day, and are much more open to dealing with someone who shares their passion than someone who's simply looking to get quick publicity for a client.
- Including relevant materials that make the blogger’s job easier – Bloggers usually have day jobs that limit the amount of time they can spend on writing, sifting through blog-related e-mails and following-up with contacts for more information. For this reason, including relevant materials in pitches such as audio, video, bio information and images that can make for a more easily and quickly written article often encourages a writer to do a piece on your topic. The top of a message should always be brief and to the point, but making more information easily accessible below – should the writer need it – can be a big help.
- Being casual – Everyone has their own idea about e-mail etiquette, but in my experience casual and friendly pitches stand out much more than messages that have a formal tone and seem overly planned. It’s probably not a good idea to make it seem like you’re the blogger’s old friend just checking in to “say hey,” but a modestly casual tone helps you show that you know something about their work and aren’t just reaching out to them as part of a huge, impersonal e-mail blast. Bloggers arguably hate blatant "form letter" e-mails even more than journalists.
- Having a clear call to action – As a PR professional, it can be tough to remember that the person you’re pitching probably has no idea about your topic and doesn’t know what you’re seeking from them unless you make it painfully clear. Including a transparent call to action (for example, “would you be able to do an interview with ___”) early in a pitch helps get across what you’re seeking from them. It might seem a bit too forward, but it’s much more effective than burying or hiding the objective of your pitch.
- Introducing yourself through other outlets first – E-mail tends to be very impersonal and doesn’t usually give a blogger or journalist much reason to care about you or your message. Starting a conversation via another outlet (Twitter, for example) and then asking if it would be all right to send an e-mail can be much more effective. Be careful, though. Nothing is more annoying than someone who is clearly only starting a conversation in an attempt to make you a new pitch target. It’s important to show that you actually have some interest in knowledge in the topic the writer covers.