Every so often someone calls me for help after reading this blog post, even though I wrote it nearly ten years ago. Some things are still relevant when writing a great pitch – and getting to the point is perhaps even more important than ever. I’ve added a few things just to spruce it up a bit.
This is a quick primer for writing a great pitch. Answering these questions can help you deliver the right message at the right time, to the right person.
1. What do you want ? Is it a guest post for their blog, a feature in the magazine, a social mention, a panel spot on broadcast …most of the time people do not say what they actually want – they just talk about themselves. Explain what you want and always customize to the specific audience. Sure, it’s easy to blast the same email out 100 times but you’re just chumming at that point. You need better bait via a more personalized approach if you really want to land that big fish.
2. Really dig for the most relevant points for the person you’re writing to. Do you have an angle on a timely news story? A unique perception of a common problem? (And before you assume it’s unique, make sure you do your research. A lot of people just haven’t read enough about a topic to know they sound like five other people.) Make those points FIRST. Don’t give an intro. Media doesn’t have time.
3. What gives you the credentials to talk about this, or contribute on the topic? Here’s where what we call your “chops” come into play. Make sure you include your most recent, most relevant experience. This section can be a bit more boilerplate. Sell yourself in 50 words or less and include a picture. But only if it’s a GOOD picture. Make sure you add a hot link to your full bio as well, or linkedin, or whatever is your most current online presence.
4. Ask for the next step. What do you want? A chance to chat live about the idea? Send them your new book? Have them read your bio? Even the smallest activity is a good conversion. If you don’t know this person, your biggest goal at this point should be to get on their radar screen. This is perhaps the most important part of writing a great pitch.
Now, write your pitch. Forget the flowery “I’m the best in the world” stuff. Forget the long paragraph that explains how the planetary alignments, economy over the last 10 years and Oprah Winfrey have all come together to create this moment where your book, product or service is the cosmic lightning that will change the universe. Make it to the point, short and as simple language as you can.
Here’s an actual pitch – this person had zero media interviews when we started working with him. The pitch was sent in response to news stories that were breaking at the time.
SUBJECT: Papal expert available to discuss Pope Francis and progressive reform
Dr. Charles J. Reid Jr., PhD, JD is now available to talk about the Synod Pope Francis has convened and some of the highly controversial topics being addressed. Dr. Reid is the ultimate Vatican insider with both the historic context and current knowledge to provide in-depth, fascinating commentary. He has contributed to stories on CNN, Al Jazeera America, the LA Times, and has been a source for countless other broadcast, online and print stories on Pope Francis, the Vatican and controversies surrounding the Catholic church. He is a popular religion blogger for the Huffington Post.
Dr. Reid can discuss:
Why Pope Francis is trying hard to shroud the Synod in a media blackout, and how right-wing grandstanding could affect the discussion
Whether Pope Francis will touch upon subjects like birth control, women in the priesthood, gay rights or optional celibacy for clergy
What other steps beyond the current Synod Pope Francis may have planned to incite reform
Dr. Reid earned his JD and JCL (canon law) from the Catholic University of America and his PhD from Cornell. He is a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis and prior to this post, was a research associate in law and history at the Emory University School of Law. Follow these links to learn more about Charles, read his Huffington Post blog or see his recent media appearances.
Let me know if you’re interested in speaking with Dr. Reid. Thanks!
Seriously, there’s not much more to it than that. You can offer more background information, video clips, a book or project case study, but don’t send it with the first email, send them as links in the pitch.
Get the media’s attention by getting to the point and knowing what you want. Once you have their attention, you can hit them with both barrels!