Gini Dietrich

How to Craft a Personalized Media Relations Pitch

By: Gini Dietrich | May 18, 2017 | 

Media RelationsRecently, our team received a media relations pitch for a contributed blog post on Instagram tricks for artists to attain career success.

The grammar and spelling error-riddled pitch was very polite.

And it was politely declined in return.

Most of the pitches we receive are ice cold, like this one.

We have no idea who the author is, and we’ve never seen them engaging with the community.

They demonstrate a complete lack of understanding our audience (hint: it’s not artists).

And they pitch us content we don’t publish, such as infographics.

If only they took the time to read our contributor guidelines.

Or an article of any kind on our site.

Batching and blasting out a cold, canned media relations pitch like this one does more than cost you an article placement.

Editors and journalists on the receiving end of these generic pitches will often remember you and decline to work with you on anything in the future.

I’ve heard communicators try to justify this approach with it being more time efficient than crafting tailored media relations for each publication.

But is following up on a dozen duplicative pitches blasted out randomly to a PR outreach list really more time effective?

No! Of course not!

Crafting a personal, targeted pitch is more likely to win you a media placement—and improve your journalist relationships.

How to Craft a Personalized Media Relations Pitch

Let me give you an example.

This is an oldie, but a goodie…and it works extraordinarily well.

In 2009, my now good buddy, Steve Strauss, wrote an article for USA Today titled, “Should Entrepreneurs Twitter? Uh, No.”

To say it caused an uproar is putting it mildly.

People, mostly on Twitter, were fired up and took to the social network to criticize him.

I remember thinking, “Wow. How short-sighted.” But I didn’t actually say that to him.

He had four reasons entrepreneurs shouldn’t tweet…so I wrote—in the comments—four reasons they should.

To his credit, he read the comments and, after an introduction by a mutual friend, he called me.

We spent about an hour on the phone, while I walked him through Twitter and explained how it could be used to grow a business.

The following week, he wrote an article titled, “Twitter for Small Business…Reconsidered” (in which he called me charming, which I wear as a badge of honor!).

And, to this day, we have a great relationship.

All because I did more than criticize him. I offered a different point-of-view and I was respectful.

I crafted something that was extremely personalized and it was only for him.

Not every other business reporter talking about Twitter.

Creating personalized media relations pitches involves more than just having a cursory understanding of an editor or journalists editorial guidelines.

To draft a truly personalized pitch, follow these steps.

Follow the Journalist’s Work

What have they most recently written that relates to your pitch topic? How can your pitch act as a follow-on to that piece? This becomes the angle for your pitch.

How can your pitch act as a follow-on to that piece? This becomes the angle for your pitch.

This becomes the angle for your pitch.

It used to be we’d have to subscribe to the newspaper or magazine.

We’d wait six weeks for it to start showing up.

We’d comb through the articles until we found something relevant.

And then we could pitch.

Today, all it takes is a few keystrokes and you have all of the information you need.

Use it!

Make the Subject Line All About Them

Michael Smart has a brilliant formula for email subject lines that get opened and responded to.

At the crux of it, it’s about making the subject line about the journalist and praising or commenting on what they’ve recently written.

Journalists often only get an email about a post if someone has a complaint about not being included, or being included in an unfavorable light.

Share Your Thoughts On Their Work

What did you enjoy or find useful?

What additional information do you have that is relevant to a future follow-up to that article?

Pitch the journalist on being part of the future content creation on the topic.

Send the Email to the Right Inbox

I have a very good friend who never checks email.

If you want to reach him, you get him through Facebook Messenger, or not at all.

This means his inbox is full of people who have zero clues how to reach him—and he’s fine with that.

Many journalists work the same way.

While they have a business email address—one that is found in Cision or the other media list databases—it’s not the inbox they check.

Make sure you know what the journalist’s preferred email address is and send your pitch there.

Engage on the Topic Publicly

Warm up the journalist pre-pitch by leaving a comment on the article or sharing it in social with a comment.

(It works!)

If they reply, make sure your pitch incorporates any response or feedback into it.

Further, by following and engaging with the journalist on social media, you’ll see when they are actively looking for sources and be able to respond quickly.

By taking the time to build journalist relationships, you’ll more easily craft personalized pitches.

These tailored pitches, in turn, will increase your media relations success rate.

And you’ll help improve the profession’s public image at the same time.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • robandrescik

    Great piece! Thank you.

  • Tony Hardman

    If the email address listed in media databases is the one you say they don’t check, then how do you suggest you find the right mode of contact?

    • You can use Twitter or Facebook (if they use it), the phone…find a way to communicate with them, build a relationship, and eventually they’ll tell you the best way to reach them.

  • paulakiger

    I’d love to see that email box full of inquiries the friend didn’t check. Probably an interesting case study of some kind.

    • I’m actually considering doing that very thing. I keep missing real email because it’s sucked into the vortex of horrible pitches and people abusing my email address.

      • paulakiger

        Yeah, I can see why you’re considering that option. Thank goodness I kept that carrier pigeon on reserve. 😉

  • Thanks for sharing. The alternative option Facebook for email is very impressive and helpful.

  • Walt Whitman

    Charming? Did he not see your foot long teeth and claws that can slice through a tin can as well as a tomato? Were you in costume because everyone knows you are a fire breathing Dragoness who will stop at nothing to keep building your hoard of gold. Bet he used words like cute and impish too. Wait til he sees what happens to him in the end…I tell you nothing good. Aye.

    • Well, he didn’t see me in person. It was on the phone so I was able to fool him.

  • Perfect timing, Gini. We’re just getting around to the pitching content part of the content mapping plan you’ve taught me. I’m going to make this required reading all our execs. Thanks!

    • Yeah!! I hope you’re having a good trip. I’m a little envious of your photos.

      • Thanks it was an awesome father/daughter trip – giving me time to adjust to my baby moving to San Francisco.

        • That makes me so sad for you!

          • Thanks, it’s hard to let them go. But I’m very happy for her – and I now have a good excuse to visit San Francisco!

  • PRLab

    Great Piece Gini, as always! I’d add: pick the right story and make sure it’s relevant to that specific writer. Maybe you’re missing out on a better internal story happening within an internal team of your organization because of your lack of research. Not every new feature/product release should be pitched to the press 😉 I just wrote a piece about this topic based on a panel discussion with 3 journalists who shared practical advice about this topic.

    • “Not every new feature/product release should be pitched to the press.” A-freaking-men.