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Five Losing Media Pitches and How to Avoid Them

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It's simple -- almost too simple, in fact -- to contact media outlets these days. TV and radio shows (particularly, the ones that are national in scope) want your story ideas and news tips. They make email addresses for their producers available on their web sites (alternatively, they provide story and news submission forms that you can access and submit from their web sites). Newspapers, magazines, and blogs (especially the more prominent ones) also provide contact information for their editorial staff members online and welcome story suggestions.

Once your online pitches begin to garner positive results, you'll see for yourself that producers, editors, reporters, and bloggers really do look at their incoming emails, and they do keep an eye on those story and news submission forms. In the meantime, be assured that your pitches really are reaching the right people, even if the recipients don't always take the time to respond. Understand that you're building a relationship with media decision-makers, and you are establishing your credibility as an expert and source of story ideas, every time you send off a pitch.

You're not wasting your time by sending pitches into a black hole on the off-chance that someone might read it. Your pitches do matter, and media decision-makers take them seriously. That's why you want to avoid sending pitches that could sabotage your chances of building strong, mutually-respectful relationships with media decision-makers as you conduct your book promotion campaign. Here are five show-stopping ways to turn off media decision-makers along with winning alternatives:

  • Pitch an idea that's unrelated to a breaking news story or all-consuming media event. When you know the entire country is caught up in the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, for example, you can assume the media is working exclusively on that story or on sidebars related to that story. If you're an expert on terrorism, post-traumatic stress disorder, or something else that might be related to the event, then pitch away. Otherwise, hold onto your pitch, however compelling it might be, until the media has had time to move on from the big story and segue back to regular programming and routine reporting.
  • Pitch the exact idea you've previously submitted. While it's okay to contact a media decision-maker more than once during the course of a book promotion campaign, you should only do so if each pitch presents a different angle. If you're offering the same idea again and again, and simply changing the wording, then the recipients will feel spammed. Worse still, the producers, editors, reporters, and bloggers you're trying to impress might come to regard you as a nuisance rather than a potential asset and ask you to stop contacting them -- and, once a media decision-maker has asked you to remove him or her from your email distribution list, you're legally obligated to oblige. If, on the other hand, you send a steady stream of different news angles to the media, they'll welcome your missives and appreciate your persistence. And, when the time is right, you might get a positive response to your pitch.
  • Pitch a story to a media outlet that's just covered it. If you're an expert on casual dress in the workplace, for example, and a major newspaper has recently published a story on the topic -- and interviewed your competitors, but not you -- then you can be reasonably sure the newspaper has crossed that topic off its immediate list of pending stories (which still leaves the door open for writing an op-ed page response to the story or for posting a comment on the newspaper's web site, by the way). Sending an after-the-fact pitch that whines about the fact that your expertise wasn't included in an article that would have benefited from your input, or that berates a media decision-maker for failing to interview you, would be as inappropriate as it would be unhelpful. Instead, focus on pitching media outlets that haven't covered the story recently. They represent the best possibilities for scoring interviews.
  • Pitch a story that strains credibility. You're trying to establish yourself as an expert in your field, so keep hyperbole and any dubious details out of your story submission. The more straightforward your pitches are, the more readily you'll be believed ... and the less inclined the producers, editors, reporters, and bloggers will be to question you and your value to their media outlets. It's fine to try to catch the attention of media decision-makers, but if you do so with anything less than integrity and honesty, your pitch surely will backfire. Just convey the indisputable facts, and the media decision-makers will respect you for it. Prepare yourself to back up everything you say.
  • Pitch your book instead of a story. Yes, your book is important to you, and your book promotion campaign is the reason you're offering yourself up as a guest or expert to the media. However, the fact that your book has been published is not news to anyone outside of your immediate friends and family circle. The media doesn't want to see a commercial for your book (unless, of course, you're paying them to run an advertisement). Focus on the book's media hooks instead, and the ways in which your expertise ties into upcoming events, and you'll make far more progress with the media people you're trying to persuade.

Every story idea or news tip you submit is part of a dialogue (even if it does seem one-sided most of the time) that you're trying to establish between media decision-makers and you. Your goal is to demonstrate your communication skills as you patiently work to persuade media outlets that you could make a positive contribution to their show, publication, or web site.

So pitch optimistically and consistently, but also pitch mindfully and carefully. All it takes is one ill-timed, redundant, questionable, irresponsible, or commercially-oriented pitch to persuade producers, editors, reporters, and bloggers that your pitches are not worth their reading time -- and to deny you the opportunity to receive valuable exposure in their media outlets as long as they have anything to say about it.

Stacey J. Miller is an online book promotion specialist and founder of S. J. Miller Communications. Visit her at www.bookpr.com.