The Art of the Pitch

Here at Curator, we wear many hats every day, but the one we probably wear most is media relations. Pitching traditional media and bloggers is something we do on a daily basis, and the success of our campaigns usually hinges on the breadth and depth of the coverage we are able to secure. Some of us pitch the same people on a more regular basis, while other times we need to explore a different market or just expand our contact list for a new client. The art of the pitch is something probably hundreds of bloggers, media and PR professionals have written about over the years, but I believe it is ever changing. While their might be a lot of universal “don’ts,” I don’t believe there is one singular “right” way either.

With so many brands and companies pining for the media’s attention, the importance of building relationships and establishing a good rapport is much greater. Every email and phone call should be thought of as that one shot to get it right, because let’s be honest, if the first point of contact turns them off, the next email is likely to end up in the Trash folder before it’s even opened, or worse, the person asks to be removed from “the list.”

So, that all said, instead of using this post to share just my own learning’s, I went straight to the source, or rather, sources. I reached out to a handful of bloggers, media and peers to get a wide perspective on what, today, seems to be working and not working when it comes to pitching.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first, shall we? If you’re guilty of doing any of the following, stop it right now!

I laugh when I get those e-mails that begin Dear <insert name> or Hello Mommy Blogger. It may take a few extra minutes (or in the case of a mass mailing, an hour), but using my name and personalizing the e-mail goes a LONG way. - Zippy Sandler, Champagne Living, @zipporahs

I dislike interns that aren't communicating with each other, with the owner. I once received the same proposal, word for word, 5 different times from 5 different interns from a handbag line that I already had a relationship with, specifically with the owners. Frustrated, I put them on the back burner. It also sucks, for lack of a better word, when you build a relationship with a particular brands PR girl and after a year or 2, say she moves on to another job and all of a sudden you never hear from the company again. It's like, hello? Where's the courtesy email? When you spend time advertising, building a relationship and then your contact leaves so you're dropped is a tad unprofessional, annoying. – Vanessa Grannis, Shopping Saving & Sequins, @ShopSaveSequins

PR people assuming I write about baby and toddler items just because I'm a mom (I don't). Lengthy old school press releases; e-mails with a one-line personalized intro, 3-5 quick bullet points, then a call to action if I'm interested at the end is all you need. Also: please lose the "we can send high res images upon request." line. – Marlynn Schotland, Urban Bliss Life, @UrbanBlissLife

One of the challenges that I face with a lot of PR reps that prospect me is that they ask for my services, whether it be reposting, styling, or writing about product and they expect us bloggers to do it for free. This is one of the biggest challenges that us bloggers that particularly don't have thousands and thousands of followers face on a daily basis. – Bay Area fashion blogger

We would have to say of all the PR pitches we receive, our number one pet peeve would have to be press releases that are made out to sound like invitations. "Join us," "We welcome you to experience," only to read to the bottom where ticket prices are listed. – Jeremy & Adrian, The Food Gays, @FoodGays

My biggest pet peeve is when I get what I know is a blanket pitch about something that has absolutely nothing to do with my beat or something that doesn't relate to Seattle at all. As a city magazine, I really don't cover anything that isn't Seattle-related and it starts to really grate on my nerves when my inbox is filled with meaningless pitches. It just wastes everyone's time! – Ali Brownrigg, Style Editor of Seattle Mag and Editor of Seattle Bride Magazine, @Ali_Brownrigg

Pitches that are totally 2009 - like this one I got the other day: "Being able to give prizes to your readers is definitely one of the perks of being a blogger. It’s a super fun way to create excitement on your blog and interact with your visitors." And these people wanted me to turn around a giveaway and facilitate prizing in about 20 hours!? This leads to my next pet peeve: assuming I have nothing to do and no editorial planned and want to jump at the last minute to promote someone else's contest (please retweet, etc.) – Annemarie Tempelman-Kluit, YoYoMama, @yoyomamadotca

Now, if you’re already doing any of the below, give yourself a high-five right now. These are the things people have found success with, and are also preferences heard straight from the horses mouth.

I want original content that helps my blog stand out and remains true to my brand voice, so if a PR company is excited about new ways of presenting their product to my audiences, it usually makes for a more long-term relationship and we build that trust working together on fun, unique customized campaigns. I like it when PR people are honestly excited about the brand they are pitching. It's very obvious when they're not, and that makes it hard for me as a blogger to get excited about it. -– Marlynn Schotland, Urban Bliss Life, @UrbanBlissLife

I really like when PR firms and brands take the time to see if my blog is a fit for their pitch. Though I am a lifestyle blogger, there are clear things I write (or don't write about.) – Jess Estrada, Fresh Jess, @JessEstrada

I really like it when I can tell that a company or brand has actually read my blog and wants to work on creative ways to reach my readers. My best sponsored content ends up being content that works with my blog and subject area-- not just a brand feature. – Jenni Bost, A Well Crafted Party, @jennibost

Personalization! Also give me option to brainstorm how to share their content in a relevant way to my readers rather than regurgitating information. - Brooke Andersen, Just B, @Brookeandersen

Use social media. I literally stalk writer's twitter to see what they're up to and what they're interested in. And some magazines, like Cosmo stream their weekly pitch meetings on the Internet, so I like to try and watch. – Ani Istanboulian, Account Executive at Dog and a Duck

I love it when a brand or rep spells out exactly what is expected. Yes, I still write in my own voice, but if I know that you want the words "Lovely Lollies" linked, I'm more than happy to do that...just let me know. Send me your client list; if I'm working on something that might be a great fit, I can let you know. You may be looking for the same thing at the same time. - Zippy Sandler, Champagne Living, @zipporahs

My #1 tip probably is to be personable and customize pitches for people based on your relationship with them. On top of that is work really hard to build relationships with them. – Sarah Goehri, Account Executive at Porter Novelli Seattle

It’s easy to get lazy, but a little research often leads to long –term and brand advocates, not even because they love the brand, but more so because they get along with you. – Jenny Savage, Account Executive, Webber Shandwick

LOVE it when a brand or rep wants to develop a relationship, and not just a "will you do this for me" (from PR) or "will you send something to me" (from blogger). Some of my dearest friends have come from PR/blogger relationships. An e-mail that says, “Hi, how are you doing (no agenda)" works WONDERS. I may have something in the works and have TOTALLY forgotten that you represent brand that would be a great fit for my cruise article and I am instantly reminded to ask if you'd have something that you'd like included. – Zippy Sandler, Champagne Living, @zipporahs

Developing a relationship always makes pitching easier. Try to personalize each pitch and then send thank you notes after the story runs. – Kelley Tarzian, Media Relations Manager for Macy’s

I think the list for both do’s and don’ts could go on and on, but these are some great reminders and lessons for those new to the pitching game. My final two cents on the matter is: when in doubt, make a friendly introduction and ask what that person’s preference is. They’ll probably be relieved you’re asking and it will save you both time and energy, which we all know is sensitive to begin with.

Have a great success story, or learned something the hard way? Share the knowledge with us at @CuratorPR.