"There is only one Inc. Magazine, only one Fortune," says Elizabeth Robinson, President Volume Public Relations. "If you blow it with your target reporter in the pitch, you've basically shot your entire chance with that publication. Make a bad impression ... and they won't open your emails again."
We asked Robinson to reveal how to craft an email pitch that will get (positive) responses from top tier business magazine editors:Tactic #1. Find the value to readers
Instead of reading a magazine in your role as a publicist, pretend to be a typical marketplace reader who wants to advance their company or career. What would you want the magazine to tell you?:
"I want to know how I can save money, how I can run a successful, profitable business. So when I have a client doing that, I'm not only going to help them promote their service, but promote how they run their business in such a successful manner," she says.
For stories in general business magazines, look beyond the type of product or service your client offers and focus on your client's company itself. Do they have a different corporate culture, home-grown talent, unusual management style, etc.?
For example, when she pitched a story on PrintingforLess.com to Inc., Robinson pitched the fact that every day at the company is "Bring your dog to work day," and how that contributes to the company's success (the story ended up on the cover of the magazine). Tactic #2. Leave some things out
Don't make the mistake of thinking every last detail of the story needs to go into the pitch. All you need to do is get the editor's attention and have them be willing to have a conversation with you.
Once you have them on the phone, you can shade in the details and request a meeting in person.Tactic #3. Craft your pitch email carefully
If you're trying to set up a meeting, either at the editor's office or at a trade show, put the date of the meeting in the subject line (example: RE: 03/20 mtg). It's a subtle call to action and lets the reporter know, in very few words, that you're requesting a meeting, and when you'd like it.
Keep your entire pitch short with plenty of white space. Sentences and paragraphs should be no longer than two lines. Make nearly all of your points in bullets. And never make the bullets longer than one line.
Leave *two* spaces (one isn't enough) between each paragraph to make it easier for the eye to scan.
As an editor at Fortune Small Business said, "When I see two or three dense paragraphs of text as a pitch, my enthusiasm level wanes and I often get distracted and never get back to it because I am dreading unpacking those paragraphs."
The way to interest top-tier media is to get directly to bullets that answer the question, "so what?" If each sentence doesn't strongly answer that question, then don't include it.
Remember, you are a person talking to another person. Try using the editor's name not just in the salutation, but in the pitch body and close. Example: "Look forward to connecting with you soon Susan."
Be courteous, but don't grovel or beg for "just a second of their time." You should only be pitching top-tier business publications if your story really is of interest to their broad audience base. Being calm and confident will help them see that you know what you're doing. By bringing them a story, you're offering a valuable service.
One example: "Hello John. Understand you're interested in serious stories related to Internet Services. This IS one of those stories."
Always end your pitch with a deadlined action item, ie: "I'll give you a call tomorrow," or, "If I don't hear from you by Tuesday, I'll give you a call."
(Note: See link below for samples of crafted pitches.)Tactic #4. Test and tweak
Robinson creates test emails that she sends to a single reporter she's most sure will be interested. Based on his or her response, she tweaks the pitch.
If one magazine is interested, she comes up with a different angle for every other publication she pitches (so that each publication has an exclusive) but keeps the format and tone of the pitch the same.
If nobody cares, she goes back to the drawing board to see if she can refine the pitch. Tactic #5. Calm voice on the follow-up
Now that you've made email contact in a courteous and respectful way, the follow-up call is simple.
"They've already received a pitch from me that they were able to glance over to see why they'd want to talk to me," Robinson says. "When I call, there's less of a chance they're going to be annoyed."
Robinson makes sure she speaks in a calm voice, and says, "Hi, this is Elizabeth over at [Client Name] (she purposely doesn't name her agency, since it's extra information the editor doesn't care about), do you have a second?"
If they say no, she responds: "When would be a good time to call back?" and then gets off the phone quickly. If they say yes, she responds: "I'm just touching base on the bullets I sent over." (Yes, she actually uses the word "bullets" rather than "pitch.")
98% of the time, the editor then keeps her on the phone, finds the pitch in his or her in-box, and gives her a minute to talk about it.Useful links related to this story:
Samples of four email pitches - including one that bombed and how Robinson rewrote it successfully:
Volume Public Relations