Pitching is, to say the least, a tricky walk for most of us. Even as someone who has done media pitching for twenty years, I sometimes still struggle through a pitch, or struggle to keep it short or come up with the best subject line. But aside from all of the pieces we’ve talked about in weeks one and two, it’s also important to know best pitching practices and the best ways to get email pitches noticed. Here are a few:
Pitching the Right People
Perhaps most important piece of following the best pitching practices is to pitch the right people and while I know this goes without saying, it’s amazing how often I hear folks pitching the wrong media targets. Know this: in most cases the media isn’t going to pass along an indie author’s pitch to the right person (read: they won’t do your work for you) so make sure you are going after the right person to start with.
Never, ever, ever pitch the host unless the show is so small that the host is also ferreting through pitches and running the show. A lot of times folks are keen on pitching hosts of shows, or the editor of a magazine or whatever, hosts and magazines editors generally aren’t vetting pitches and while they may pass it along to someone who will, they will most likely just delete it.
If you’ve pitched bloggers in the past and are now turning your attention to national media know this: national media is much more formal than a blogger pitch. For media you need to prove you know your stuff right there in the pitch, whereas a blogger might take a bit of time to peruse your website and get to know you before writing you back.
If you don’t have access to expensive media software like Cision, you can always pull together lists yourself by visiting the media site, reading their publication or watching the show (you should be doing these things anyway). If you spot someone who you think might work, check them out on Twitter and see what they’re talking about. I can’t emphasize this enough: make sure you are pitching the right person for your topic.
Book Media and Other Focused Media: Following the Beat
I have indie authors with books who only want to pitch book media and that’s fine most of the time, but consider whether your book media target does more than just feature books for review. If not, you may want to move onto another media target because if you aren’t pitching them your book within their review window, it won’t get considered anyway.
So what about other focused media? Yes! If there is an editor or producer who has a focused beat on, let’s say medical or political or whatever, go after them with your story.
Is Pitching Multiple People at One Outlet Okay?
I know that people do this, even PR folks who should know better, but I generally don’t recommend it. If you do find yourself going after several folks at the same publication, I recommend giving them the heads up that you’ve also pitched so-and-so for this at their magazine or show or whatever. Why? Because you don’t want them to be blindsided when they go into a story meeting with your email and find out that several other folks got the same story, too.
Follow Up, Follow Up
So when is it ok to become a pest and follow up on your pitch? Well, while it’s never ok to be a pest, it is ok to do some follow up and generally I recommend that instead of sending an email saying “Did you get?” try formulating another pitch for their consideration. That’s how I always follow up. Unless they’ve requested your materials or more information in which case, a regular follow up email is fine.
If you’ve pitched media outlets and hear nothing it doesn’t mean they didn’t get your email, it means that they got it and there was no interest. Media outlets won’t give you feedback on what they liked or didn’t like about your piece, they simply won’t respond. Which doesn’t mean you can’t pitch them again and again. If they don’t want to hear from you, or if they have changed beats and no longer cover that area, they will probably tell you.
Press Kits and Press Releases
They say there’s a time and place for everything, but the time for press kits is really long gone. The last time I used an actual paper kit was maybe 6 or 7 years ago. You can always put one online (as we’ll look at in the next section) but having one to mail is just a bit old school and, frankly, a waste of paper. The media will discard them, almost every time so don’t spend your time and money there. However, you can put the kit on your website, all electronic, and direct media there. We’ll look more at this in a minute.
So what about press releases? Well in a world with non-stop breaking news, I say indie authors should choose your release topics carefully. Press releases are fine as long as you have real news to share. The problem is that many times I see press releases being used to announce the release of a new book or product. If you have a big base, a huge mailing list and a lot of fans hungry for your new stuff, this may be fine but otherwise, save your time and your news for when you have something really big to announce. It’s very rare that the media picks up news from a release, or maybe on slow news days you might get a hit or two but again, I probably would not spend my time here.
Your Media Room
Now here’s something that can really help to spice up your website. An online media room is a great place to store things like your bio, headshot and any other media that you’ve been interviewed for or featured on. Online media rooms don’t have to be complicated or involved, but it is a great place, and a nice one-stop-shop to put all of your media materials and anything an interviewer might need for your upcoming gig. One final idea for your media room is to include a list of topics you can speak to, in case a media person finds you and wants to see what all you can comment on!
While getting media is harder these days, the rewards of ongoing media attention can be tremendous and once you get into the rhythm of following best pitching practices, that is — what to pitch, and how and when to pitch it, this will be some of the most enjoyable work you will do. Before you know it, ideas will start popping and you may find the opportunities here are endless.