We recently looked at media, and more importantly how to KNOW your media. Now that you have that under your belt, it’s time to create the perfect pitch.
The Spin/Pitch and the HUH Factor
How you pitch is almost as important as what you pitch and when it comes to pitching media, less is truly more. Imagine if you were working the CBS Evening News and you had to ferret through 1,000 pitches a week. That’s not an exaggeration and often these numbers are considerably higher. How would you manage to sift through that much email and still run a show? Well, you’d probably start by looking at the subject lines.
As you develop the perfect pitch, keep in mind that your subject lines are often more important than your pitch. If your email subject line doesn’t get people to open your email, then what’s the point of the pitch, right? Keep it short and snappy and most of all, relevant.
Back Up Your Statements
Now that the email is open, whatever statements you are making need something weighty to support it. So how do you do this? Cite studies if you have access to them, or cite other stories that have been done on this (if your story is a follow up piece). In order to lend credibility to what you are saying, or offering as a topic idea, you’ll need to substantiate it with some facts so make sure that if you share statistics or X percent or whatever, you provide a way to back it up. Need to find some statistics? Take a look at trade publications you subscribe to. Gallup polls are another great resource. You are the expert, so you should have basic back up at your fingertips.
Think HUH: Hip, Unique, and Helpful
The perfect pitches should always, always be helpful, because that’s what the media is going to be looking for (i.e. how will this help my audience?). Keeping in mind that help could be: inspiring, educating, entertaining. It doesn’t always have to be “help” in the general sense.
Keep it short
If you can’t share your idea in a paragraph, then keep reworking it till you can. There’s an old media term called ‘above the fold.’ This means, essentially, anything that’s above the newspaper fold is important and the first thing readers see when looking at a paper. Your email should be no different. Keep it short, do not make the media person scroll. If they like the pitch, they’ll no doubt ask for more information and that’s when you can load them up with anything else you’ve got to share.
Don’t send attachments ever on your first pitch. With thousands of pitches, the media has to sort through each week, you don’t want yours getting lost in a spam filter because of an attachment. Provide the link so they can easily access more information.
Finally, remember that most of us (and this includes media) looks at emails on their phone and often in preview form so in addition to your subject line, consider adding a teaser at the top, or an enhanced subject line, before you get to the Dear such and such portion of your pitch. I’ve found this to be super helpful to media, especially if you want to use that one sentence to elaborate even further on your subject line.
How to tie your perfect pitch into what’s trending.
The media is always anchored to what’s going on right now or, what might be coming up for them so whenever there’s a news story you can comment on, or a looming holiday or some other kind of “thing” that’s out there, make sure you have a pitch that’s tight, targeted, and ready to go.
Figuring out how to pitch or what to pitch or how to phrase it isn’t always easy but there’s a good school you can go to learn about this and it’s called the evening news and the news stand. So, when you’re watching your nightly news broadcast watch how they tease stories before they go to commercial (this is called the “Bridge) and watch how news casts often start out by teasing stories that are coming up later on in the broadcast. These teasers will give you a good sense of how the media likes to get their pitches and the more your pitch can align with these preferences, the quicker you could make it into the national news.
Next, stop by your local newsstand and just take a look at the teasers on the front of magazines. All of them are short, sweet and enticing you to open the covers and see more. As with national news, these are another great way to start getting a sense of how the “spin” works.
Trends, Hot News Stories, and Seasonal Stuff
To give you a sampling of some pitches we’ve done in the past for our indie authors, have a look at these topics, the holiday tie-in around them and what the pitch was about.
Holiday: Valentine’s Day
Hook: Did You Know You Could Meet Mr. Right in a Soup Kitchen?
The story behind the hook: Our volunteerism author commented on how singletons are meeting their significant others while volunteering. While her book did not focus on singles and volunteerism, she knew enough about this topic to comment on it. Once we did our research we found that single volunteer organizations were springing up all across the country.
Hook: Give Your Kids the Gift of Laughter This Holiday Season!
The story behind the hook: We were working with an author who specialized in the importance of humor and children. He offered ways to give kids the gift of a lifetime: laughter.
Calendar hook: Fire Prevention Week
Hook: How to Get Organized Without Resorting to Arson
The story behind the hook: Our author had a book about organization but the title pulled right into Fire Prevention Week so while promoting it around other dates that supported organization, we also pushed it during Fire Prevention Week!
Calendar hook: Holidays
Hook: When Airplanes and Relatives Don’t Leave on Time
The story behind the hook: This was a humor-based book about family dynamics around the holidays. The media loved this, we got tons of radio, print and TV for this hook! We also had the good luck (or bad, depending on your perspective) of a massive snowstorm that shut down the east coast and ground most transportation right after Thanksgiving so it was a great local tie-in.
These are some subject lines we’ve used very recently to pitch national media, with very relevant and timely tie-ins to current news.
- Will Technology Vaporize Your Job?
- Is Fake News Making You Sick?
- Is Post-Election Stress Disorder Killing Us?
- Is Your “Cold” More Than Just a Virus?
The final piece of this, much like I talked about in week 1 is that you can’t do all of this in a vacuum, you must be out there and blogging, tweeting, and sharing this stuff on social media. Making yourself attractive to the media is sort of like applying for a job. Your resume is polished, you show up and have your expertise ready to share. Getting media attention is no different, it’s a job interview and it’s the job of getting into a national audience. Do it right, and you won’t be able to keep up with the interview requests. Next week, we’ll be focusing on best pitching practices, so tune in!