Following on from this guest post ‘Outreach: Best Practices and Worst Pitfalls’, here is a little more information about drafting that perfect pitch email.
The all important subject line
As Blake says in his post above, ‘Be careful with the subject line’. Sometimes copying and pasting the heading of a press release or the headline of a proposed article or blog post doesn’t work because it doesn’t give quite enough information. Adding the words ‘news idea’, ‘feature idea’, ‘guest blog suggestion’ gives the receiver a little more information.
You may also benefit by including the name of the company you are doing the outreach for – particularly if your email address and the company name don’t match. As an agency, we are always doing outreach for any number of companies and often to the same journalists or bloggers – including the name of the company ensures everyone understands who the pitch is really from.
The all important sign off
I’ll come back to the middle of the email shortly but as with any written content, if the beginning and the end of your pitch are strong, you can (to some extent) get away with things in the middle of an outreach email.
So you’ve pitched your idea and now need to round things off. Nothing says business like enquiring what the word count might be if your offer is accepted and the deadline for providing said article. It shows you’ve been here before and have an understanding that your content needs to fit into their schedule.
You might also want to extend that sign off to ask whether they have any editorial guidelines or style rules. Sometimes a particular site may ask for a 100-word summary which can be used to promote the article if their content is syndicated elsewhere. You may also be asked for a timeline of events which have lead to the subject matter becoming an issue, or perhaps some statistics which validate the topic or your opinion. Asking for guidelines again just shows a good awareness of how your copy needs to dovetail with their own.
The meat in the sandwich
If you’re pitching an article from a company that the receiver will not have heard of, then your first mission is to summarise what they do and to give an indication of why they are an authority on the subject. However, at this stage, it needs to be short and snappy as otherwise, they’ll lose interest before they’ve even found out about what you’re pitching. If you feel more detail is required include it as a PS.
The article idea should comprise a catchy yet SEO-friendly headline and around 5-10 bullet points or sentences which give an overview.
When individuals pitch to us at Browser Media, we are fairly cynical about receiving the full article at this stage, as it means it may have already been pitched (and/or rejected) elsewhere and if it has been written generically it may not meet specific editorial guidelines. It is usually best to pitch the ‘idea’ of an article rather than the article itself. There are occasions when some publications (e.g. Huffington Post) prefer to receive the whole sh-bang but these are fairly few and far between.
You also need to take care that the article is pitched from a named individual. Very few articles, if any, go live with just a company name at the bottom – and if they do, they are more likely to be advertorial than editorial. Even if the content is being ghost written (don’t even go there in your outreach email!) you should be informative about the bylined author and their experience in the sector or about the topic. And also consider ways to demonstrate their leadership by linking to other articles or speeches they’ve delivered on similar topics.
You may also want to consider the job title of the person who will be contributing: people with sales and marketing titles are much less likely to be selected compared to those with either more generic positions or very specific industry specialisms.
National awareness days
National awareness days are much over-used but the reason they are so ubiquitous across industries is that they give a certain impetus to activity. By this I mean, that if there is a day, week or month that is focussed on a particular topic, it may just spur a journalist or blogger on to say yes to your pitch.
By example, Browser Media was implementing a campaign for a client which focussed on national Divorce Week (the first working Monday after New Year) but in order to get the content live before or on the day itself, outreach began in early December. Divorce being a fairly miserable topic to be contemplating during the festive season became a real talking point with the media and journalists and many requested content as it was an easy win for them to use after being on annual leave.
Each journalist and each sector of the press and bloggers will have their own eccentricities about receiving pitches and so it can be hugely beneficial to make the time to contact a core number, before you need to start generating content. Ask them what they are looking for, how they like to receive outreach emails or pitches and the best time to contact them.
Don’t expect results immediately: if you’ve never had contact with someone before, it might take three to four emails before they even acknowledge you.
It’s definitely worth taking the time to personalise outreach emails although don’t pretend you’re an avid reader of someone’s blog if you’ve never really looked at it before. It will, however, help to point out which section of their site you believe your content idea will best fit or to explain how your subject matter builds on a topic they’ve covered before.
Finally, grow a thick skin as you’ll always get more rebuttals than acceptances but remember it’s usually the content that is hardest-earned that does your digital marketing campaign the most good.