There is a reason so many pitches get rejected by the media. On average, the media rejects 95% of pitches they get. How can you become part of the 5% that get picked up for a story? First, you need to know the reasons why pitches get rejected. Keep in mind these aren't the only reasons, but certainly the majority of them:
- Uninteresting email subject lines: Often your pitch is judged by the subject line. Make it something interesting, make it a headline or risk getting relegated to the delete bin.
- Long emails: I don't know about you, but I hate reading long emails. The media hates it even more, in fact many of my media friends have told me that if they have to scroll through a pitch, they often won't consider it unless it comes from a very trusted source. How long is too long? If you can read it on the screen without scrolling down, you're in good shape.
- Non-compelling topics: You won't get attention for your topic just because you pitch it. It has to be timely, unique, and relevant to the audience they serve. Think HUH: Hip, Unique, and Helpful.
- An opened email isn't always a sure bet: Even if your email gets opened, it might still get deleted, and here's why: for all of the above reasons. Create a tight, focused pitch that isn't too long and stays on topic. This will increase your chances that the media will read it through.
- Not relevant: What I mean by this is that it's not relevant to the audience the media outlet serves. Don't think for a minute that just because you find it interesting and compelling that your media target will. For example, I once had an author tell me about the amazing world of fly fishing, and then insist that Oprah would be interested in this topic. Really? I think not so much. Watch the show, listen to the broadcast, or read the blog or publication -- before pitching.
- A false sense of urgency: Often I find that folks pitching, in order to get noticed, will call upon a false sense of urgency. Yes, it's urgent that we fix our school systems. Yes, it's urgent that we clean up the environment. Neither of these things are going to blow up tomorrow so don't pitch them as though they are. While it might make for a more compelling pitch, it will only serve to paint you as an unreliable and often excitable source. Neither of these are good.
- Unknown senders: An unknown source or sender may be considered an unreliable one. It's easy enough to get to know the media long before you start pitching. And I highly recommend that you do so.
Now, let's look at 30 things you can do to make yourself, and your pitches, irresistible to the media!
- Start early and focus on relationships.
- Connect on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn: get to know your media, connect with any local and national reporters, journalists, and news people via these social sites so you can get to know them.
- Comment on postings via Twitter and Facebook: comment on their postings and news when appropriate.
- Facebook birthdays: this is a great way to connect to everyone on your list, especially media. Wish them a happy birthday, they'll appreciate it.
- Watch those Twitter hashtags: as you follow your media, you'll start to see a trend of most-used Twitter hashtags, I highly recommend you follow them so you can see who else is talking about the story.
- Blog about them on your site, referencing a recent story they did.
- Comment on their stories, whether it's on their site or on their media site.
- Sign up for Helpareporter.com (HARO) and respond to stories appropriate to your topic.
- Get to know your smaller, regional publications, and also trade publications. Both of these tend to be easier to get to and could offer you some exposure well in advance of your book launch.
- Get to know your local radio hosts, or the hosts of stations you'll be targeting. Especially in radio, it's great to get connected to the broadcast people as early as you can. They also tend to be pretty accessible.
- Go to events where you know you might meet some media folk. This is often a great way to engage them on mutual ground. Attending the same event is a great way to start a dialog or relationship with the media.
- Practice your elevator pitch! What's an elevator pitch? It's a short, succinct description of your topic or pitch. Short enough to keep them interested (1-2 sentences) but long enough to tell the story, or at least the headline.
- Become a source for your target media: becoming a media source is something we'd all love to do. But this takes time. By getting to know your media, commenting on stories they write and letting them know your area of expertise, you might become one of their regular sources!
- Become a connector: be the person the media goes to for other experts as well. How do you do this? Whenever you introduce yourself to media, make sure they know your area of expertise and your ability to connect them to other experts who might be helpful as well.
- Every now and then, I will share a blog post with a journalist that I think will be helpful to them. I don't do this a lot - just every once in a while.
- Be succinct: define your story in one sentence. Keep it short, sweet, and relevant to your topic.
- Sell the benefits, not the features. The media cares about what consumers care about, and all they want are benefits.
- Make sure the media person has all the information he or she needs prior to the interview. This is especially true for late/breaking news. If there are new developments, make sure they are aware of them. This will save them research time and make them look good!
- Speaking of making media look good, this is your job as well. Yes! It's important to make them look good, give them a set of questions, a synopsis about the book or interview topic and be prepared in case they ask you a question that doesn't seem quite right. Sometimes the person who is interviewing you doesn't get the media packet till 10 minutes before they go on, which doesn't leave them a lot of time to prepare. Be sure to help make their job easy!
- Jump on breaking news when it happens and be ready when the media calls.
- Be flexible. If a reporter covering a big story wants to chat with you on a weekend or late at night/early morning, say yes.
- Be excited about your topic: if you're not excited, how do you expect the media to be?
- Never, ever give up. It might take a while for you to hear back, and sometimes (most times) the media won't respond to you until they have a need for your story.
- Keep it short. Write short emails, always. Generally media folk are on email overload anyway; don't add to that with long, elaborate emails.
- Think locally when appropriate: craft a local spin to a national story. While local media will always cover local, they love regional angles to stories that are making national news.
- Stay on topic: when you do get the interview, stay on topic. Don't stray all over the place, you will confuse the media person and you'll end up getting a much smaller piece of a story if you look too fragmented.
- Respond immediately: even if you are on vacation, reply right away to all media queries.
- Don't tell the media anything you don't want to see in print. Assume everything you say is "on the record" even if you ask them to keep it confidential. I've seen authors say "well, off the record"; when it comes to media, assume there's no such thing.
- Avoid slang and industry jargon: it will confuse the media.
- Be grateful: always. Send a handwritten thank you note after an interview, and even if you didn't get the interview for which you were being considered, send a note of thanks anyway and wish them well on their story.
When it comes to media, get started as early as you can and build those relationships. Remember that while the delete rate of pitches is high, they are still in need of great guests, interviews, and stories. Be all those things and you'll not only be irresistible to the media, but you'll get a lot of placements that could really help launch your career!
Bonus tip! Ready to find media on Twitter? Head on over to Muck Rack: http://muckrack.com/