Imagine walking up to someone on the street, telling them your life story, and then asking them for $50. Do you think they’d respond by pulling out their wallets? Or is it more likely they’d back away slowly, trying not to make eye contact?
It’s a pretty obvious answer, but most people don’t realize that the PR pitches they’re sending essentially do the same thing. They share a lot of crap that nobody cares about – and then they have the audacity to ask the recipient to do them a favor.
Trust me, it’s bad out there. I get about 100 PR pitches a day. They all really suck, and they’re all freaking annoying. That’s bad news for most people, but it’s good news for those of you who are motivated. If you’re willing to do things a little differently, there’s a lot you can do to write the kind of PR pitches that actually get you mentions and get your story told.
Here’s how to do it.
#1. Keep it short
Repeat after me: no one needs more than 3-4 sentences to explain what they do – which is why it’s so frustrating when messages like this fill up my inbox:
If you’re currently sending 1,500-word pitches (which nobody is reading, by the way), cutting back to just 3-4 sentences can sound impossible. But think of it this way: you don’t need to propose marriage on the first date. All you need to do – on the date and in your email – is get someone interested in taking the next step with you.
Go back and look at your current pitch. Print it out, if it’s easier to hack apart that way. Now, cross out any words or sentences that aren’t explicitly necessary to getting someone to move forward with you. You probably need fewer sentences to do that than you think.
#2. Send from the right address
I know you paid big bucks for your PRNewswire subscription or to hire a PR consultant. But guess what? If they send me pitches instead of you, that’s an immediate sign that I should ignore your email.
It’s simple, really. When I get an email that’s obviously a PR pitch, I know that the only intent is to get me to do something. When the message comes from you, personally – and it’s clear you’ve done your homework about who I am and what I’m into – that’s when I’m most likely to want to learn more.
(Oh, and to make matters worse, over 50% of journalists rarely or never use newswires. There’s almost always a better way to spend your marketing dollars.)
#3. Make it topical and relevant to the recipient
Don’t take this blog post to mean you should email me about a press release. I probably don’t care. Maybe I’d pay attention if you emailed me about marketing, but most of the pitches I get are about the companies entrepreneurs have launched or how much they’ve raised. All you need to do is take a quick look at my blog and my social profiles to see that I don’t cover content like that.
Case in point:
If you did even the barest bones of research, you’d see from my Facebook profile that I’m into racing motorcycles. Or you’d see on Twitter or my website that I like to go skydiving. If you emailed me and said anything about skydiving or motorcycles, you’ve at least got my attention, and you’ve got 2-3 seconds to tell me what your pitch is about.
You don’t need to write up a full profile on the people you’re trying to reach. Just take two minutes to:
- Skim through their most recent blog posts
- See where they publish outside of their website (and what topics they cover)
- Check out their social profiles
- See who they’re connected to on LinkedIn
- Figure out their conversational style when communicating with others
Doing this shouldn’t take much time, but it’s a vital part of being able to personalize your PR pitches appropriately.
#4. Don’t BCC
If you’re doing proper personalization, you shouldn’t ever be using BCC anyways, because your pitch shouldn’t apply to multiple people at once.
But no matter what the circumstances are, don’t BCC people. It’s pure, utter laziness, and it’s immediately clear what you’re doing. Recipients are able to see that their name is in the BCC field, and they’re going to automatically know that you’ve emailed your pitch to a bunch of other people at the same time.
Here’s what it looks like on my end:
Really, you should be using Mailshake or a similar tool when sending PR pitches. But even if you’re not, do yourself a favor and send separate emails to different individuals so that the BCC field is unnecessary.
#5. Get their attention on social media first
We’ve known for a while that cold selling doesn’t work, whether you’re talking about cold calling sales prospects or reaching out to possible PR leads. In fact, research out of the Keller Research Center at Baylor University found that cold calling can have a success rate as low as 0.3%.
That’s pretty depressing. But the solution isn’t to give up. In the context of PR, it’s to make sure you’re never reaching out to a cold prospect in the first place.
The way you do that is by getting the attention of the people you plan to send pitches to on social media first. Maybe you:
- Share content they’ve created with your audience
- Email a “thanks” when you enjoy something they’ve created
- Comment on their blog posts
- Add your insights to their work via comment or standalone post
- Interact with them on social media
- Send them a compliment
I get a lot fewer tweets than I do emails. So if you tweet me something like, “Hey, I just emailed you about a crazy idea,” you might just catch me in a conversational mood.
But it’s not about me. It’s about the person you’re reaching out to. Pay attention to the channels where they’re most active. If they’re most active on LinkedIn, reach out on LinkedIn. Just remember the rules above. Sending them a compliment doesn’t mean you get to send them a 1,500-word pitch at the same time. It’s still too big of an ask.
#6. Focus on building a relationship
If you follow the tips I shared above, you’ll already be light-years ahead of the people out there spamming junk PR pitches. But take it one step further. Don’t just try to warm up your leads with a little basic research. Actually try to build relationships with the people you’re reaching out to.
If a decent PR pitch from someone I don’t know comes my way, I might pay attention to it. But if a request comes through from someone that’s in my network, I’m going to drop everything and see how I can help.
You don’t get there by liking a few of someone’s tweets or sharing a few of their blog posts (although that’s how a lot of my relationships have started out). Finding mutual common ground – maybe you’re into the same hobbies or grew up in the same area – isn’t enough either.
The best way I know of to build relationships is to find something you can do to help that person, and start there. Don’t ask for something first, and don’t make a surface-level offer (or worse, suggest something that benefits you more than the person you’re trying to connect with). Find something you can offer that’s genuinely valuable, and start from there.
This won’t work in all circumstances. Not everyone is looking to expand their network, and some people won’t be interested in the value you provide. But the more you invest in building genuine, mutually-beneficial relationships, the less you’ll have to worry about getting your PR pitch noticed in the future.
Got another tip to add to this list? Leave me a note below with your best suggestions, then check out these other great resources on PR pitches:
How to Perform Cold Email Outreach for PR
What is PR Outreach and How Do I Do It?
Email Pitch: 40 Best Cold Email Tips Proven to Get Press
How to Pitch Editors & Win More PR for Your Agency [+2018 PR Pitch Email Templates]
Top 4 Best Media Pitch Examples