Love and Media Relations: A Pitch to Remember
As PR professionals, part of our job is to pitch clients’ stories to target outlets and influencers. At the agency, the only pitches we see are the ones we’re sending. But on the other end – at the newsroom – those pitches are just a drop in the bucket. Media relations specialists rarely experience this transaction from the other side, but online dating has given me a surprisingly fresh perspective on pitching. In this installment of Love and Media Relations, I’ll continue to share PR lessons I’ve learned through online dating, showing how contacting potential love interests is a lot like pitching media contacts.
As a female on any dating site, you receive a lot of messages. The deluge starts the instant you publish your profile, and it pretty much never lets up. At first the attention makes you feel special and excited, but that bright-eyed enthusiasm fades quickly. After receiving enough gross, strange and just plain dumb messages, you start to get a little jaded. When you check your iPhone to see five push alerts from OKCupid in the last hour, you just sigh. You’ll be lucky if just one of those messages is interesting.
If there’s an upside to receiving all that junk mail, it’s that it shows you how reporters probably feel looking at their pitch-filled inboxes. Getting an official new email address at the local paper must be thrilling – until your name ends up on a million media lists and you’re getting alerts for every bake sale around town. You end up having to wade through several pitches to find a good story. But, whether you’re an online dater or a journalist, when you find that rare message that’s worthwhile, you take time to appreciate what made it so great. And those great messages (along with the bad ones) can teach you a lot.
The First Message / Pitching
One of the biggest complaints about online dating is that it can feel like shooting in the dark. A lot of the time – especially if you’re a male – you’ll send someone a message and receive nothing in response, never knowing the reason behind the silence. Maybe that girl created her profile on a whim and abandoned it. Maybe she saw the message, got busy and forgot to reply. Maybe she didn’t like the cut of your jib. Or maybe the message was just too boring, confusing or overwhelming to be worth her time.
It’s a harsh truth, but most messages get ignored because they simply don’t stand out in a flooded inbox. Your first message to a potential match is basically a pitch for your personal brand. You need to inspire the other user to engage with you, and there’s an art to doing it right. The same strategy can be used to craft a media pitch that grabs a reporter’s attention and motivates him to cover the story. Following these rules should help you craft eye-catching and moving pitches:
- Don’t just make noise. – Once I got a message that simply read “jey.” He couldn’t even be bothered to type “hey” correctly. And that’s only slightly worse than the rest of the junk I receive daily: the very popular “what’s up” and the cookie cutter messages obviously copied to 80 different users. Spam is annoying. Spam never works. Media lists often include hundreds of contacts across a variety of outlets, from news sites to blogs to radio. Blasting a generic pitch to the whole list may seem efficient, but it’s a lazy and ineffective tactic. Each publication has a unique audience, editorial policy and voice. Furthermore, each reporter at the outlet will have her own beat. Taking time to tailor each pitch and adding a small human touch can make all the difference.
- Get to the point. – Sending five paragraphs in the first message makes you seem needy and suffocating. You may have a lot in common with another user and feel tempted to talk about it all, but save it for a potential date. The most effective strategy is to break the ice with a few short sentences and let the conversation flow from there. Media contacts have equally short attention spans. Editors and reporters are extremely busy people who will not bother to read a lengthy email or press release. Composing a pitch involves very little writing and a whole lot of editing. Fluff is the enemy.
- End with a call to action. – Here’s how not to end a message: “I see you like traveling. Cool.” How am I supposed to respond? Thanks…? Yep…? If I have to work too hard to keep a dead-end thread going, I won’t. I’ll delete. Here’s how to do it better: “Tell me about your travels.” Ending with a clear call to action shows that you can hold a decent conversation and makes it easy for me to respond. Every pitch is essentially a request, and it’s best to be clear and direct about what you want. If a reporter is confused about how to engage with an email, she’ll probably just throw it out. Pitches are most effective when they conclude by saying exactly what they hope to achieve: a feature, an interview, a social share, etc.
- Catch them at a good time. – No 2 a.m. messages, please. Not even if you’re a totally normal person who just likes to stay up late. It’s still creepy. The optimal time to reach out is during the day – over a lunch break or weekend, when people are likely to check and process their personal inboxes. PR pros need to be mindful of timing, too. The ideal time to pitch a newspaper editor is a weekday morning. Reaching out bright and early means the email will be at the top of her inbox, ready for that reporter who’s awaiting the day’s assignment. Of course, the best time to pitch a blogger may be at 8 p.m., after she’s arrived home from her day job and finished dinner. Find out when certain contacts prefer to be pitched and set your schedule accordingly.
With an attractive profile and a solid outreach strategy following the tips above, you should have captured the attention of your potential dates. Now all you have to do is sustain their interest and maintain good relations – but that may not be as easy as it seems. Too often, online daters and PR professionals alike forget that communicating online requires the same skills and courtesy as it does offline. The next post in this series will offer tips on managing mutual needs and expectations to make sure everyone is satisfied, from your future boyfriend to your clients and media contacts.