Selling Your Story to the Media: Crafting a Successful Pitch
Every business owner wants to see his or her company spotlighted in her local newspaper — or even better, on the pages of a glossy magazine. But, short of shelling out thousands for a tiny ad spot, how do you get there?
The key to getting featured in a publication is creating a captivating story. Here are some strategies for creating a pitch that the media will eat up.
Be unique. Every business owner thinks that there’s something special about his or her company, but the truth is, it’s tough to stand out in a crowd. To distinguish yourself, make a list of topics that often surprise people in conversation: Are you a high school dropout? Did your trademark cookie recipe come about from an ingredient mix-up? Are you the single mom of six kids? Everyone loves a fascinating founder: When contacting media organizations, play up the most compelling facts about yourself and your business (whether they're part of what your company does or not) to catch their attention.
Be timely. Often, even a captivating backstory isn’t enough to capture the headlines: In addition to being interesting, your business needs the “why now?” angle. Consider newspapers’ and magazines’ editorial schedules when crafting a pitch: Some publish their editorial calendars online, or will distribute them on request. With others, you can simply focus on upcoming events, such as summer holidays, weddings, or back-to-school. Keep in mind that many publications plan their calendars far in advance, so think about angles that may be relevant a few months in the future: If your chocolate shop is crafting special ghoul-themed confections for Halloween, get the word out by August.
Customize as needed. Send out a form letter to hundreds of media groups, and most will consider you a spammer. Instead, take the time to customize your greeting and message to each person you contact, making the effort to address the email to the specific editor at the publication who manages the relevant department — MediaBistro and paid membership groups like Vocus can provide quality leads. Look through the publication you’re targeting, and point out specifically how your pitch fits with their audience. If it doesn’t, skip it.
Keep it concise. Magazine and newspaper editors receive hundreds of media pitches a day, and they don’t have time to read novel-length emails. Limit your pitch to 400 words or less, and make sure to put all the most important information in the subject line and in the first few lines of the email. Most people won’t read any further than that.
Proofread. Addressing a message to the wrong editor or publication is apt to get you an automatic veto. Misspelled words and incorrect grammar will make you look amateurish and unprofessional, also making a rejection likely. Before sending out your message, double-check your entire email to ensure that all the details are correct. If necessary, hire a proofreader to help out: The small investment could catch an error that would have otherwise lost you a cover story.
Kathryn Hawkins is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.