Getting your content in front of journalists and influencers is tough. Not only does it have to appeal to your target audience, be of a certain calibre and be ready at the right time, but it's also got to be picked up by the right person.
I've spent endless hours pitching to journalists, bloggers and influencers over the past few years and have had some major learning curves along the way. The fact is that there isn't a one-fits-all email template that will get you a guaranteed response. If it was that easy, we'd all be getting featured on The Guardian and the BBC.
Whilst I can't give you a guaranteed way to get a response from your content pitches, I can share with you what I've learnt and what's helped to get my content placed on sites like Forbes, Yahoo!, The Guardian, TechRadar and more.
The Perils of Pitching Your Content
Anyone that's tried to get their content picked up by authority sources will know that it's tough. Henley Wing of BuzzSumo recently published some feedback that he got from a load of top journalists and some of them mentioned that they received over 100 content pitches every day.
With this in mind, it's no wonder that it can be tough to catch their attention.
iAcquire and BuzzStream put together a fantastic study around content placement rates and pitching success based on a sample of over 300,000 emails sent. They found that the average industry placement rate is 4.8% for males and 4.5% for females.
Based on those stats, you should be getting one successful placement for every 21-22 pitches that you send. Those figures starting to sound familiar? Oh, and it's worth mentioning that it doesn't count if you just fire out the same old template to a list of 22 blogs - this isn't how it works.
If there's one thing that I've learnt, it's that getting your content placed on top sites is a long-game. There's no quick win here. It takes time, dedication and a very personal approach.
Crafting the Perfect Pitch
I've had an article bookmarked from Paul Sawers (of TheNextWeb) for a few years now that outlined what he considered as the perfect pitch. Here's what he gave as an example:
Hi [First Name],
I’m [full name], founder of a London-based startup called [name + link to website], and I think you may be interested in our new product. We’ve developed a GPS-powered app that helps drivers instantly see how much they’re spending on petrol with each journey they make, and whilst there are similar apps out there (e.g. xxx and xxx), this is the first time an app has been created that uses up-to-date, real-time data from local service stations around the world.
We are releasing the Android version next week, and we expect the iOS version to be approved shortly after. I’ve attached a few screenshots of what the app looks like, and here’s a link to a video that demos exactly how it works.
I thought I’d give you first refusal to review this app before contacting other publications. If you could let me know if you’re keen to learn more, I’d appreciate it.
Thanks a lot for your time.
This examples all of the key components of a pitch. It's short, it gets to the point quickly, it clearly displays how it can be mutually beneficial to the recipient and there's an emotional hook to encourage follow up.
As a general rule, all of the content pitches that I craft will adhere to the following guidelines:
- The body of the email mustn't exceed 190 words.
- The email must addresses the recipient by their name.
- It must give a very brief intro into who I am and who my client is (if I'm pitching on their behalf).
- The pitch section should get straight to the point of what the content is and take up no more than two paragraphs.
- Never send over the content in the pitch email. Wait until you've had the go ahead from them.
- If the content is very complex, use bullet points to get the idea across in a short way.
- Give an emotional hook for the recipient to want more information.
- Every pitch should be unique and add a personal touch if possible.
- Explain how publishing the content will be mutually beneficial.
- I should have a good understanding of what the recipient publishes to ensure that the content is completely relevant to them.
- Email subject should be no longer than 55 characters and should encompass the content idea within it.
- Get straight to the point and don't use buzzwords!
If one of these pointers can't be ticked off then you need to rethink your approach.
On top of this, you need to be thinking about how you can improve the way you pitch over time. Make sure that you're measuring what is working and what isn't so that you can refine and improve your pitches in the future.
Another tip that I'd give is to try and reach out to people through social media first. I usually use Twitter for this and will just comment on something that they've written in the past to start building a rapport with them. This can then lead into a conversation where you ask if it's ok if you email them - this will dramatically improve your email open rates.
On top of this, it's important to realise that you're not always going to get content placed on the first attempt. Plan well in advance and start reaching out to your targets a good time in advance of when you're looking to achieve a placement. You may find that if your pitch is good but they don't have a requirement right now that you can just keep that relationship ticking over and revisit it in the future. I like to use services like HARO and ResponseSource to open up relationships with top journalists and then come back to them at a later date.
- Don't approach your content pitches with a cookie cutter model.
- Craft unique and personalised pitches that include a clear emotional hook.
- Get straight to the point and stick within 190 words maximum.
- Don't overload your emails with buzzwords.
- Measure, refine and improve.