Everyday I get some version of this e-mail from someone who wants to be featured in the SmartBrief on Social Media newsletter:
I know I just found out about your publication, but I’m confident your readers need to know about my client’s remarkable product! Of course, I can’t really be bothered to explain what I’m promoting in a way that you might relate to — so I’m just going to copy and paste in a boiler-plate press release below.
Love and Kisses,
Anonymous PR person
It’s not just public relations folks either — there are variations on that e-mail from bloggers, researchers and entrepreneurs as well. They’re all sending the exact same e-mail to me and every other blogger, reporter or editor who turned up on their keyword search.
These messages are meant to convince someone influential in your field to talk about your work, but more often than not, they end up being a waste of time. It’s a shame that even though the principles of social media engagement are permeating every other aspect of marketing, we’re still trying to attract the attention of some of the most discerning media consumers with decidedly Web 1.0 tactics.
I’m not suggesting that pitching to influencers is a simple matter. I’m frequently on the other side of these e-mails, trying to get the real ace bloggers of the social media world to notice a particular post — and maybe even send a tweet or an inbound link my way. I’ve still got plenty to learn, but I’m starting to develop a system — an ABCs of Pitching — based on the approaches that have worked for me in the past, as well as the tactics that seem to get my attention when I’m on the receiving end. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
- Appeal on a personal level. Your pitch is a message written from one person to another — not a business transaction between two brands. Be human. Don’t fall back on a form letter. Use natural language and personalize your message. Show that you’re familiar with the influencer’s work and place your pitch in that context. If you can’t do that, maybe that’s a sign you should be pitching to someone else.
- Be a problem solver. Your influencer isn’t looking to do you a favor. Whatever you’re pitching needs to be genuinely useful to their audience. Resist the urge to use the old standby: “I think your audience would love to know about …” — your job is prove your worth, not assert it. You need to be able to show them how your pitch answers a question or solves a problem that the influencer’s audience is concerned about. Responding positively to your pitch should never feel like a stretch for your influencer.
- Create curiosity. Tell your influencer about your surprising discovery, your awesome product or your counterintuitive conclusion — but don’t bog them down with details. Be concise. Be provocative. Leave a little mystery. Don’t be confusing or misleading — that will only erode trust. Just leave them with a single natural question in the back of their mind. That question gives them a reason to e-mail you back.
- Don’t oversell it. I’ll admit that I’m particularly sensitive to this — I’ve been know to literally growl at pushy salespeople — but I don’t think I’m the only one. Reporters, editors and bloggers of all stripes tend to be a skeptical, independent people. You can’t badger them or expect to wow them with hype alone. Push too hard and you risk getting redirected to their spam folder from now on. You need an easy, light tone to pique their interest. You can lead a blogger to content, but you can’t make them link.
Of course, this list is a long way from comprehensive. Got any other tips that belong in the ABCs of Pitching? Leave a suggestion in the comments — let’s see if we can fill out the alphabet. If you can come up with a half-decent tip that actually begins with the letter “X,” you’ll have my undying respect as both a blogger and vocabulary enthusiast.
Image credit, Palto, via Shutterstock