When I say standard, what I really mean is… bad. Because the standard media pitch is inherently bad.
My hope for you is that after going through these, you’ll know what NOT to do and start pitching stories (not topics) to media, journalists and writers that they can actually use.
What it comes down to is covering three basic bases in your pitch:
- Address why your story is relevant now, to that writers’ audience specifically.
- Make the writers’ job easier so that your pitch doesn’t feel like a burden.
- Personalize your message to stand out and grab the attention of the writer.
After reading the three totally real pitches I recieved in the past week, you’ll see what I mean. Please note that I removed the names of the companies and people mentioned in the emails below.
EXAMPLE #1: too much too soon
Thought I’d check in and see if you caught this recent piece from PUBLICATION highlighting how folks are using IFTTT (If This Then That) technology to benefit from the president-elect’s tweetstorms? (1) I wanted to further zero in on IFTTT users leveraging COMPANY APP to boost their savings every time he tweets – something I thought you and your readers would appreciate/find funny (2).
Users have set rules on the app (3) that transfer money to their APP savings accounts each time the Donald publishes a tweet (an average of 5 tweets per day and over 34 thousand tweets since 2009 (4)), helping them amass funds for such goals as vacations, new homes, charitable donations, or moving expenses… while letting the President-elect do all the talking.
In a time when a $500 surprise expense would put most Americans into debt, it’s no wonder people are getting creative with their savings habits. Named one of Entrepreneur’s brilliant 100 Companies to watch, and recently named to IMPRESSIVE PRESS (5), APP turns everyday habits and guilty pleasures into opportunities to save money, without even thinking about it.
I’ve included additional information on how the app works below my signature for your reference. (6) Let me know if you have any questions, or if I can provide you with any additional information. (7)
How APP works: (8)
(removed this explanation because it was super long)
- Very long first sentence. I wish he introduced himself first and why he was reaching out. Right off the bat, he’s dumping information on me that I don’t even want to read yet. It’s too dense.
- Why did he think I/my readers would find it funny? He should have added: “because you have written humorous pieces about Trump before” (which I have).
- Launching right into his pitch. He’s already lost me here.
- The links are nice, but he’s linking out to random information is too much. This email is written like an article instead of an email.
- Unless an achievement is really worth bragging about, don’t include it.
- It’s good to include more information below the body of the email so the reader won’t get overwhelmed with a wall of text.
- Include a clearer CTA. Ask, “is there anything else you would need from me to write this story?” That’s better because it’s a yes or no question.
- This is good info, but it’s a lot. The issue here is that I have covered this app before, so I already know how it works. If he had done proper research, he would have known I already understand the app.
EXAMPLE #2: too bland
With the increase in Americans neglecting to save and plan (1) for their financial future, COMPANY, America’s leader in personal finance software for over 30 years, has devised 5 attainable tips to better track your money as you settle into the new year.
Find Out What You’re Spending on Little Things (2)
Small daily expenses like coffee on the go or lunch out with coworkers aren’t always factored into the budget. It’s easy to get a handle on this extra spending by saving and tracking your receipts with the COMPANY mobile app. You can snap and upload receipts using your phone or tablet, so you’ll have them all in one place.
Create an Accurate Budget
The next step is to determine where your must-pay income is going (rent or mortgage, groceries, car payments), and factor in those extras. Add everything up, including what you’ve earmarked those “extras”. The result should give you a pretty good idea of where all of your money goes each month and why you may be coming up short.
Set Savings Goals
It’s important to accumulate some savings, so set a goal. Specify a percentage of your income to contribute to long-term goals and schedule time to put money toward them each month. That way you avoid improperly allocating your finances.
Be prepared for life’s little surprises by keeping up to date. Review your spending and budget periodically to reveal trends you may not otherwise notice. If life throws you unexpected expense like a car repair, you can use savings to cover these costs, or — better yet — set up a special category in your budget for them. At the end of the month, simply shift that money to savings if don’t have to spend it.
Let COMPANY Do the Work for You
Even if you’ve got a handle on your finances, it never hurts to have some help tracking the odds and ends. At the end of a designated period, COMPANY desktop software tells you exactly where your money went, and if you’re on track with savings, spending and monthly bills. The software will alert you if you’ve gone over budget, and inform you of how much you have left for miscellaneous spending. It will even create your budget for you.
Would you be interested in sharing any / all of these tips in any upcoming articles you’re working on? (3) Please let me know and if you have any questions.
- There’s absolutely no “intro,” she just launches right in. Even if you don’t want to include a personalized comment at the top (which you should) the intro should at least draw a connection between what the email is about and why it’s relevant now.
- The way she broke down a listicle is actually good. The only problem is that since she’s not a writer, the information in the listicle is incredibly basic. There’s no real value here because these money topics have been beaten to death. However, if I thought this content was useful, I could have easily turned this listicle into a complete article. When done well, that’s a HUGE help.
- Very standard and weak CTA. If you ask “would you be interested” the answer is going to be “no” 95% of the time.
EXAMPLE #3: completely off the mark
I am writing to share some news about a new online mattress company launching today… (1)
COMPANY incorporates the latest innovations in foam technology (2) to offer online consumers a supremely comfortable mattress.
Due to his own personal life balance story, Founder and CEO (3) Some Guy wanted to create a company that would help consumers create a life in balance by providing products, starting with mattresses, and knowledge to nurture emotional and physical wellbeing.
About COMPANY – (link)
• Integrates the latest in sleep technologies
• Helps consumers live a more balanced life
About the founder: (4)
• 20+ years’ experience as a leader and innovator in the mattress industry.
• Started his career at X, where he mixed the ingredients to create the polyurethane foam for use in mattresses and went on to learn the business side of the company.
• Later joined X, where he assumed increasing responsibility within the company in the US and abroad. (5)
• As an executive in R&D with FXI in the 2000s, was a part of the revolution in the bedding industry when new innovations in foam became a key component of mattresses.
For more information or to schedule an interview
Would you like to schedule a time to speak with Some Guy (6) to learn more about what makes COMPANY different and his plans to go to market?
- No personalization or greeting here either. Even a “how are you?” or “hope you’re having a good week” would have made this email stand out more.
- All I’m seeing is a handful of buzzwords (except for the word “foam”). Buzzwords are a buzzkill. Avoid them at all costs. There’s no faster way to make your reader’s eyes glaze over.
- Grammatical errors aside, the sender of this email just launches right into the story of the founder without any explanation. However, it’s clear here that she wants me to write a story about the founder, not really the mattress company.
- This info should have gone below her signature.
- This part reads like a resume. I have zero context (because I’m not a mattress expert) and I have no idea why any of this is special or different. She didn’t think about who she was sending this email to at all.
- It’s always nice that PR reps give us easy access to CEOs and founders, but she never answered the question “why?” Why is this relevant and how would it serve the audience I’m writing for? There’s not a strong enough angle here to make the story compelling. And it shouldn’t be the writer’s’ job to come up with it in this case because staff writers have to come up with several angles a day themselves.
Always remember that if a writer accepts your pitch, you’re giving them extra work. They have a boss. They have to run your idea by them too before they get to write it.
- Always think of ways to make working with you and writing your story EASIER for the writer.
- Give them story angles, not topics. A good way to do this is to provide possible headlines that fit the publication/blog.
- When it comes to your topic, what NEW ideas or new info are you bringing to the table?
- Tell them why it’s relevant now and how it relates to their audience.
- Send them links to past media coverage if applicable to show credibility. It also helps them spend less time on researching your company/service/you.
- Avoid CTA’s like the ones above because they’re completely overused. Be creative with your CTA and try to make it result in either a “yes” or “no.”
- Always customize your emails and keep them as short as possible. If you use a template, it should be a very loose outline and nothing more.
If you have any questions about these teardowns and my notes, feel free to reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading!