From Typewriters to Twitter: How the Internet Changed PR Pitching
It used to be phone and mail were it. Publicists used to plunk out cover letters on their typewriters, and then mail editors their pitch. Things are definitely different, but the game is still played the same. It seems now that we have less people doing more work on both — the media’s and the publicist’s — ends of the spectrum. But whether it’s from a typewriter or from Twitter, what prevails is the relationship. And you can’t build a relationship with the media if you don’t connect with them.
With the advent of the Internet, finding the media has never been easier, especially with sites like http://www.usnpl.com and http://www.profnet.com and crowd-sourcing sites like http://www.reporterconnection.com and http://www.PitchRate.com. The downside though is that more people than ever are trying to connect with the media, so you really have to make yourself stand out from the crowd. It’s definitely important to keep in mind that the first things that media reads — your subject line and the first part of your pitch — will determine whether or not you make a connection.
Subject Lines — Some news producers get 1500 emails in three hours! Of course they are not going to even think about opening your email if it has no subject line or if the subject line looks like spam. Media flooded with hundreds of emails each day will often use search terms to go through their in-boxes and find email that relates to major stories they are working on. We suggest you put these key words in parenthesis in your subject line so they will stand out.
Your Pitch — If your subject line gets your foot in the door (and the reporter, producer or editor opens your email), then the first sentence of your pitch has to get immediately to the point of what you can offer them that they can’t get elsewhere. If your pitch is tied to breaking news, you must say immediately how you can help the journalist advance the story. One way to do this is to list topics that you can discuss that will shed new light on the news. Another is to give the journalist a sampling of key tips or advice that you can offer their audience. These should be short, concise, single sentences. Finally, make sure to include a phone number or email where the reporter can contact you at any time and reply to emails immediately. Remember, they are on deadline and will call someone else if you don’t respond promptly. In fact, they were almost certainly trying to reach other sources when they returned your call or email!
With all the ways to reach out to the media, it can definitely be overwhelming. Essentially, you still have the same messages, just a different way of delivering it. If you think of the Internet as your media megaphone you’re bound to score results. If email isn’t producing results, post a video on YouTube, connect with the media on their Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter. If you get to know the media it’s much easier to build a relationship with them.