Public Relations 101: Getting Free Press for Your Business

As someone who has been writing for different publications over the past few years, I’m constantly getting pitches. Frankly, I am disappointed with many of the folks who call themselves “public relations people.” Among the countless pitches I get, it’s so obvious that the people pitching me have not checked out my work or even the publications I write for. Editors tend to be even busier than writers but most of us want pitches – good pitches! Next time you craft a pitch to an editor or writer, consider the following.

  1. The publication.

The message you want to get out has to be in-line with the publication rep you are pitching it to. Examples:

  • You wouldn’t pitch a national publication a hyper-local event.
  • You wouldn’t pitch a business publication the launch of your new toy product line (unless you could give it a business angle).

Spend time reading the publication(s) you plan to pitch. Get familiar with topics and audience.

  1. The writer or editor and their writing history for that publication.

If you have a specific niche to promote, find writers and editors who specialize in them or have extensive experience covering the industry you are trying to promote. Read several of their articles to get a feel for their writing style. Many larger publications have section editors: technology, lifestyle, politics, entertainment, fashion, business, and so on. The editor in chief might be too busy to look at your pitch but if you pitch a lower level editor or writer, you might have better luck getting a response.

  1. The value your pitch brings to readers.

A good editor and writer put their publication’s readership first. When selecting topics, they consider how the readership will react. Will they find it engaging? Will they share it on social media? Will they comment on it? Does the topic have the potential to go viral?

Everyone has something to promote but what makes your story worthy of being told? Unless your brand has a unique angle, editors and writers typically don’t care about it. You need to show value in what you pitch. Make your pitch more about them and less about you (where it fits in with their publication), which brings me to my next point.

  1. Paint a picture.

Your pitches should be short and to the point. In addition, they need to include enough information to grab the attention of the receiver but not too much to overwhelm them  – you could always include links and attachments with more information. If an editor or writer want more information, they will ask. Painting a picture of what the story would look like is key. Don’t make it a guessing game. Lay it out so that they could see it would be an easy write up.

My favorite pitch format is:

  1. Insert a one or two line introduction to the receiver.
  2. Insert headline.
  3. Insert a two to three line summary of what the article will be about.
  4. Insert first bullet point with more detailed information. Repeat two or three times.
  5. Insert where you (or your client) would fit in as an industry expert in the article.
  6. Insert one line closing. Make sure your contact information is clearly displayed either in it or on your email signature.

While every editor and writer is different, I revert back to the above – it’s all about what is best for the readership.

  1. Be clear.

As many writers and editors can likely relate, when I’m reading pitches, I don’t have the time or patience to decode messages. If pitches are not clear, I’ll hit the delete button. Proofread your pitches over and over and have someone else look at them if you can. Don’t expect writers and editors to figure out what you want.

Hope this helps!

Marisa Sanfilippo is a journalist turned award-winning marketing professional who has more than six years experience developing and executing marketing campaigns for small and medium sized businesses. Her work has been featured on Huffington Post, Social Media Today, Business.com, Patch, and other publications.