Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why E-mail from Publicists Makes Me Smile

I love "What Not to Wear," the TLC TV show offering ambush fashion makeovers, so it's no surprise that I often read the publicist pitches in my inbox with an eye towards finding those "fixer uppers" that we can learn from here. They are blog fodder, giving me an opportunity to help others avoid the same goofy mistakes.

This week's mail brought me a pitch from a professional (vs. amateur) publicist announcing that his firm is now -- direct quote -- "pleased to represent the media relations for (insert poor client name here)." First, he doesn't know that my tea mug is imprinted with, "Do I look like I give a rat's a**?" Second, the language is awkward -- never a good sign.

He then offers three sentences with a few specifics about his client followed by, "We hope you will agree with us that (insert poor client name here) offers your readers a both compelling local and national story." Forget that I'm a freelancer working for many publications with varying readers. The point here is that he has told me how many years the company has been in business and provided some information about its growth rate, but has not given me a single article idea for my "readers."

He is, of course, looking forward to hearing from me about how we will work together on an article about his client.

I know he means well. Really, he does. He's trying to get some publicity for his client. But this isn't how to do it. There are a few lessons in this very brief pitch from this inexperienced and untrained fellow:
  1. Don't start by announcing that you have a new client. It's not attention-getting, it's not important, and honestly, nobody cares but you and your paycheck.
  2. Yes, I might profile your client, but tell me why I should. Why is this company profile-worthy? Don't force me to figure this out myself because I won't.
  3. Provide me with a few trend story ideas that would include your client (and others!) as information sources. This company might be on the leading edge of a trend but you have to not only tell me that, but prove it. Or maybe it's doing something innovative or imaginative. Tell me that, not how many employees it has.
When pitching journalists, focus less on what's in it for you and more on what's in it for them and their readers, viewers, or listeners. Your success rate will improve.

What's your most successful pitching technique? Please share it with us!


Terry Cordingley said...

Excellent points. When pitching a media outlet, explain what your author can do for THEM and their publication or show. There must be a benefit to the reporter or editor. Simply stating "so and so has released a new book!" really isn't newsworthy. Tying a book's subject to a current trend or news story is more effective.

Sandra Beckwith said...

Thanks Terry. Your comment is timely -- I listened to a teleseminar this week from someone promoting a new book publicity course for authors and cringed when her #1 tip for listeners was to pitch the media by telling them what their book was about. You know that you have to pitch story or segment ideas using the author as an expert resource, not just say, "This is what my book is about. You will want to interview me."