Because I’m a PR guy who blogs, I occupy a gray space: not quite hack, not quite flack. As a PR pro, I pitch bloggers and reporters daily. Through my blog, I get pitched by people looking to have their product reviewed or their CEO interviewed. Depending on what cubicle you sit in, I could be on the dark side.
First off, I want to say we’re honored to receive pitches because it means someone, somewhere values socialTNT enough to view us as an outlet they want their product/company/spokesperson to be seen in. Instead of pulling a Chris Anderson, I’d rather use this opportunity as a PR professional and blogger to help those who pitch bloggers understand some best practices.
Pitching is a necessary evil; it’s the only way smaller voices from lesser known companies can get a chance to be seen. Good bloggers and reporters know that they can’t keep track of every new company, and therefore value a good PR professional. But you don’t have to be a PR professional to write a good pitch, you just have to know how to communicate.
Step One: Observe. Listen. Participate.
- Check out the “About” section. Does it have a sentence or two describing the focus or mission of the blog? Are there any bios or beat descriptions for the main bloggers?
- Look for a blogger that covers most closely the area you are trying to reach. Read the past several posts from that blogger to get a feel for their style.
- EX: GigaOM thoroughly identifies the beat of each blogger, making it easier to pitch.
- If you can’t find a blogger that fits, spend a fair amount of time (some say hours) reading the blog. Get to know it like you would a friend.
- HINT: Blogs like GigaOm and Read/Write/Web use a tips bucket. Don’t feel like it’s an empty hole; these buckets let the full team see the pitch. Since each reporter has their own pet interests and beat, it allows those interested to choose emails. Sending to just one might keep the news from being noticed.
- Look for regular features or topics that could work with your product or company. When pitching, mention how your product would fit in that column.
- If you have something meaningful to say, comment on a post, but don’t use the comments as pitching ground.
- EX: I read all the comments on my posts, and remember those who have commented. It will help you stand out.
- If the blogger is on Twitter, follow them.
- HINT: Because Twitter is more informal, you can have a conversation with them to build better rapport. Pitch only through Twitter if you have been following them for a while and are comfortable with writing a tight (140 character) pitch.
Step Two: Outline the Pitch/Things to Consider
- How would your product/company affect my readers?
- EX: There are a lot of really cool social media tools and sites out there. It’s great receiving pitches, but we are a vertical publication. That means we’ll need to know how it fits into the scope of our blog. Marie reviews productivity tools that can be helpful to PR/Marketing peeps or Journos. I like to review tools that can be used for marketing and PR campaigns. Sure, sometimes those applications haven’t been figured out, but the more information we have from you on how it works or how it helps communication/interaction, the better we can try to find PR/Marketing uses.
- Great Product? Can you demo it.
- HINT: If you can set up a ready-made, tailored demo of the product as it works in the wild, do so. Send a link to a page created specifically for that blogger
- Are you pitching a spokesperson? Tell me his/her background, highlighting the areas that would interest my readers.
- HINT: No more than two sentences. Seriously. :)
- Do you have any other promo materials? Press release? Send it. Better yet: Link to it.
- HINT: SMNR to the front of the line.
Step Three: Aim. Throw.
- Bloggers are usually pressed for time. They’re also on a 24 hour news-cycle. They may read your pitch at 1AM after a night of heavy drinking. Help them out: Make your pitch concise and to the point.
- HINT: Bullet, Link, and Bold
- Who are you? And what the hell are you doing in my inbox? :)
- HINT: State the most important things up front. Tell me in the first couple of sentences. If I have to scroll, you’ve written too much.
- Cut the fluff, we can usually sniff the BS anyway. Everyone has the most innovative, greatest new tool. How does it work? This is where knowing the pub/writer is crucial.
- EX: For socialTNT, how does it help people communicate or connect? Can it build relationships? How does it help with content delivery?
- PS: I *heart* video
- VIP pass
- Because bloggers are short on time, let them know how to get in touch with you. Twitter, Skype, Facebook, LinkedIn, IM and even good old fashioned phone
- Bonus: For me, Spokesperson on Twitter = SCORE!
- Jackpot: Have an RSS feed or Del.icio.us page for company news? Let me know. YouTube or Blip.tv channel: Golden.
- Caveat: Don’t assume I have the time to look or the brainpower to connect the dots. The pitch should talk. Also, just cause it’s pretty, doesn’t mean I’ll cover it. Substance.
It all boils down to knowing your pub and writer. Many of the pitches I get are from small business owners or CEOs/Marketing folk at startups. You don’t have to be a PR pro to pitch like one. Just follow the simple steps above, and you’ll succeed. Remember: There is no tried and true method, and even the best pitches don’t always mean bites.
Bloggers and seasoned PR pros: What advice would you give to anyone pitching bloggers? Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!
[PS: I admit to having crafted my share of bad pitches, or even choosing wrong targets. It happens to the best.]
Download and print this great “Blogger Relations Quick and Critical Tips Bookmark” from my Colleague, Todd Defren.