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Pitch your story: Tips to get noticed, not ignored

On my iPhone and at work, I have 3 lines of text that show up whenever I receive an email. This is meant to ensure that I have a general idea of why you are writing me and so I don’t miss anything important.

Keep the previous paragraph in mind as you read on.

I get a lot of pitches from PR companies. And while I appreciate the level of creativity in those pitches, most of them take forever to get to the details. And to be fair, my job is really fast-paced and I often don’t have time to read the entire thing to understand the point.

Truth be told, I actually prefer a Twitter pitch, (after you ask me if it’s OK, of course) because a Twitter pitch forces you to get to the point. If your pitch requires multiple tweets I’m not going to be interested. Trust me: Being forced to get your point across in 140 characters or less makes you a much better editor.

scott-kleinberg-baseballI’ve heard varying reactions to my Twitter pitch idea, ranging from impossible to smart. It is smart, for me and your client, because there is a much greater chance of me reading a tweet than a 2-page email where the ask or request is at the very bottom. All pitches should be quick and direct, not creative and a story. There’s time for that later.

Think of your pitch like you are shaking hands meeting someone for the first time. Do you hold your hand back while you talk for 5 minutes and then finally grip? Of course not. So why would you do the digital equivalent over email?

After years of pitches, I developed something I call the “3-line test.” I’ll show you how it works. Here are two examples of pitches, one good and one bad. I’ll let you decide which is which. Note that this is exactly what I see in my email before opening it.

– would you be willing to retweet this for Social Media Week? We are doing it for children in hospitals around the world.

– Good morning. Spring has sprung. The flowers are finally blooming after a long winter. I am writing you today …

That second pitch? I get a lot of pitches like that. I’d say in excess of 80 percent. Sadly, even though I have nothing against you and your pitch, I wouldn’t read the second one in full. It didn’t pass my 3-line test. And it should.

So, to recap, I would recommend you do at least one of two things:

1. Craft an email that gets the ask as close to the start as possible.

2. Tweet me and ask if you can pitch me. Assuming I say yes, send me one tweet and be clear. I will respond either way, letting you know if I’m interested or not.

At the end of the day, I may not be able to do anything with your pitch. But I’m at least happy to look at it and get it to the right person if such a person exists here. But you have to meet me half way.

And since this is a post about getting noticed, here’s something you shouldn’t do. Don’t send me a box of stuff without knowing what my job is. This morning, hours before this post went live, I received a big box from a company specializing in the alcoholic arts. It was addressed to me in a department I never worked for. I turned it into the administration office. There’s nothing I can do with it. How much the sending company spent aside, it was a complete waste of my time. The company is supposed to get noticed. Instead, everyone was looking at me so I was noticed and it was ignored.

Need more tips? I have two.

1. Never make your subject line BREAKING NEWS. Because with all due respect to your profession, unless your CEO was kidnapped it’s not breaking news. It’s just not.

2. It’s never a bad idea to check the website of a local newspaper in the city you are pitching. If an actual breaking story is happening there and you try to send a pitch, it may never be seen. It’s one extra step in your flow that literally takes about 10 seconds.

The PR and journalism worlds have always worked well together. Hopefully these tips bring us  even closer to harmony.

About Scott Kleinberg

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