Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
February 26, 2009 9:45 PM

Attention PR People: Here's How To Pitch A Writer

You would think that after the countless years of Bloggers calling out PR professionals on bad pitches that things would change. You would be wrong.

In the spirit of trotting out another dead horse: could PR pitches be any worse? The boatload of emails that are not personalized or relevant to the content being published is almost laughable. On top of that, the new trick of sending emails that say, "I'm not sure if you saw my last email, so this time I am also attaching some graphics, a PDF white paper and some spreadsheets" aren't winning your clients any friends either.

It's not hard to pitch a writer.

Here are 9 simple rules to pitch a writer:

1. Create a real targeted list. There's no reason to stray or send something on a hope and a prayer. You should know the best media outlets and the types of stories that this specific writer covers. If you're not sure, most Blogs, websites and print publications have a general email address for press releases and pitches that they never look at and will ignore just like the pitch you're spamming the wrong writers with.

2. Personalize your message. Don't be overly pitch-y and don't act like you've known the writer for years (unless you have). If you've been following the Blog, Twitter or Facebook of the writer, it's pretty easy to know how they like to be approached.

3. Don't pitch right away. Before doing anything, send a quick note letting the writer know who you are, and ask them for permission to send them pitches, information, etc... You might even want to take that opportunity to ask them how they prefer to be contacted and if they're looking for any stories in particular.

4. Don't send attachments. Ever. If the writer needs more materials, like a Word document of the press release, photos, white papers, or whatever, they will either ask, or you can ask them if they require any additional information. Some writers are on the road most of the time, and there's nothing more frustrating than wasting time waiting for your email to download because some PR flack attached four megs worth of photos that you never asked for. This is even more frustrating for those working with iPhones or a BlackBerry (data charges apply). You can always include a simple link in your email to a Social Media Press Release where the writer can grab, download and get anything additional they need/want.

5. If you don't hear back, do not follow-up. If the writer is interested they will reach out to you. Even if your email might have been flagged by their spam filter, they will eventually find it and decide if your pitch is worthwhile to them. If they don't respond to your first attempt, take that as a sign of not being interested.

6. If you do hear back, it doesn't mean that they always want to hear from you. Just because one pitch turned into a story does not give you carte blanche to barrage the writer with pitches. Relationships take time to build. Be sensitive and respectful of this process.

7. No one needs a PDF version of the Press Release. No one. Ever. Do not attach it. No one cares.

8. Let them unsubscribe. If the writer agrees to receive emails from you, always include a line at the bottom of all of your communications that makes it simple for the writer to unsubscribe from your emails. Even if you're not using an email marketing system, just let them know that they can simply hit "reply" with the word, "remove" at any time and that you will respect their wish.

9. No bulk emails. This is tied in to #2, but if you're sending a message do not send it to everyone as a BCC. Send each message - one at a time - to each writer. Even if all you're doing is a simple copy and paste (not recommended), it's way better than a mass e-blast. It's also less likely to get caught in a spam filter.

Here's the problem with these 9 simple steps: it takes time, it takes effort and it is not as easy as sending a press release out on the wire.

What rules would you add to this list?

By Mitch Joel