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.

Curator News Feed: July 19, 2013

Happy Friday, readers! This week, we spent a few too many stolen moments marveling at footage of bears catching salmon in Alaska (hey--don't knock it 'til you try it). In addition to spying on our furry friends in the North, we also did some reading about everything from dragon skulls to a beat boxing. Check out our links of the week: Via AdWeek

Giant Dragon Skull that Washed Up on British Beach is an Ad for Game of ThronesAdWeek. I love cool, unexpected marketing like this. It goes to show the value of smart execution is exponential to the actual cost. -- Dan

Mimi Thorisson Blog. I've had a frenetic last few weeks between work and travel. My wife and I have planned a down weekend — lots of cooking, family time with the kids, and lazy, long meals outside.  Whenever I have one of these weekends on the horizon I love to find something new to cook.  I recently found this blog.  It's beautiful and recipes look great.  I've challenged myself to find a dessert to make for the family from this blog tomorrow.  I'll let you know how it goes.  Have a great weekend! -- Scott

PR Nudges Its Way to the Content TableDigiday. The headline caught my attention and the content was a little surprising. Probably because we don't believe in nudging our way, but rather marching to the table with confidence. -- Jennifer

Beatbox Brilliance: Tom Thum at TEDxSydney, YouTube. I was browsing the TEDxTalks YouTube channel this week and came across this video of the ridiculously talented beatboxer, Tom Thum, at TEDxSydney. WOW, just wow. -- Chelsey

Traveling from your desktop, Mashable. Nothing can replace the thrill of travel. The sense of awe you feel looking up at the Eiffel Tower for the first time, or the connection you feel with history while wandering the courtyards of Edinburgh Castle can’t be recreated by looking at pictures. However, Google’s new street view project is bringing the experience of travel about as close to real life as you can get without getting on a plane. The street view team has expanded beyond the camera-globe topped cars to smaller units that can explore iconic buildings around the world. To get a flavor of the project, follow this link and zoom in to street view, then use the navigation tool on the left to change floors. It won’t replace actual travel, but it’s a great way to explore new places before you visit or reminisce travels past. -- Matthew

Pitchfork: Chicago's Music Festival, In These Times. This weekend I'm headed to Chicago to visit friends and listen to great music, for some of the time at Wrigley Field (I'm considering wearing a Cardinal's jersey just to spite the Cubs.) to see Pearl Jam and also at Pitchfork, a music festival in Chicago. The line-up ranges from R. Kelly to Solange (Beyonce's younger sister) to Bjork. This article reveals more about why Pitchfork thrives in Chicago and touches on the city's music history. It's a more interesting story than you might expect. I'm excited to check it out! -- Maria

PR Pro Habits That Journalists Despise, PR Daily. As a PR professional, I send out a lot of email pitches to journalists. But I also graduated from journalism school, and I know all too well how annoying it can be to receive a totally irrelevant pitch. I always make the effort to keep my pitches highly tailored, but this SlideShare serves as a great reminder for all of us. I think this quote sums it up pretty well: "Be creative, and please, please, please don't bore me." -- Megan

Credit: HubSpot

The Lernstift Smartpen Checks Your Spelling as You Write, CNN. I’m not one to typically geek out too much on new technology inventions, but this one caught my eye. A new pen is designed to actually detect when you make a spelling error. It’s the ultimate cross between the current digital world we live in and the long-lost art of handwritten text. But, with the reality being that we have moved over almost completely to digital, with this still hold value for consumers? -- Annie

Social media crisis management: Be sincere, and verify, Portent Interactive Blog. It seems like social media crises have been happening long enough that people would know how to react (and how not to), but every time I start to think that, another Amy's Baking Company comes along and proves that cluelessness still abounds. One point from Ian Lurie's post crystalizes what I think separates those who get it from those who don't: "Remind yourself that you do not get to decide what an apology is. The audience does." Read this, and for god's sake, bookmark it. -- Paul

Brown Bear and Salmon Cam, Explore.org. The amount of time I spent watching bears fish for salmon seemed to earn itself my link of the week. What about it has us so mesmerized? I'm not sure, but it's definitely something everyone should see. -- Brooke