One thing we know to be true, more than ever, is that public relations takes a significant degree of intentionality. This was confirmed even more when we took a trip to New York City in May to hear from dozens of editors who spoke about their pitching preferences – both what to do, and what not to do, when asking for feature consideration.
Anyone who’s worked in PR for more than 5 minutes will tell you that it takes thick skin and the ability to hear “no” a lot from journalists, but most often, the publicists who hone in on the relationship and storytelling artform that is PR have had more success than not.
To avoid the headache of being ghosted by national media, here are some dos and don’ts when reaching out to pitch your story or product.
DO read the publication in order to gauge what they are likely to cover and what they tend to avoid. If an editor senses that they are part of a “mass pitch,” especially if you’re pitching something they don’t cover (e.g. a kid snacking line pitched to Better Homes and Gardens) then you will likely get deleted.
DON’T expect that your product or company story is a fit for every publication. And certainly do not make demands in your pitch (e.g. “your October issue can’t afford not to have this product in it. How many can I send your way to shoot and when can I expect to see it?). That’s an excellent way to ruin any future opportunity for your brand to be considered.
DO consider being flexible and open to story angles and ideas. If an editor does not see an immediate fit for your product in the issue or on the date you want it published, consider what CAN be done. Is there an opportunity two months from now that works better, even if it’s not right when you’re launching? Or, could the digital team use it for a product or recipe round-up instead of a full feature on its own? A less than ideal placement is usually better than none at all!
DON’T mass pitch. While it takes less time to write one email and copy and paste, the “spray” mentality is more often unsuccessful than successful. The risk in adding the wrong name or publication is not worth the time saved – in fact, we’ve found it’s far more likely to earn placements if you focus on one or two publications than to mass email and risk getting zero response and losing potential relationships.
DO get to know the editors. Following editors on social media and engaging with their every day content puts you in a position to connect with them more so when it’s time to send your email pitch. Find similarities or connections between your own interests and use that in your opening! For example, if you see that the editor of BuzzFeed just got back from Hawaii on her social media, then you can start with something like “Hawaii looked like an absolute dream. What was your favorite food adventure while you were there? It’s one of my bucket list travel destinations!” Liking and commenting on social posts is also a great way to connect!
DON’T hijack their personal social media posts and cross over into the land of awkward or creepy. Keep in mind, if you are not a close and personal friend to this person, they do not want to see things like “Love the outfit! Would look awesome with some @mybrandname watermelon!” However, feel free to comment conversationally with something as simple as “wow! LOVE the outfit!”
DO be respectful of an editor’s time. Take into consideration that they are skimming emails just like you and I do – looking for the most important or relevant information that helps them do their job better, and deleting anything that seems like spam. Write subject lines that are clear – while being clever is important to some degree, wait until the body of your email. Editors often search emails for topics, so if you’re pitching a summer recipe with berries, be sure to say “Strawberry Margarita and Other Summer Cocktails for Round Up” versus “A Beach Bum’s Favorite Cocktails.” Then, in the body of the email, get to the point right off the bat, and give any additional or supporting details, including photos, underneath. If an editor doesn’t understand what you’re pitching within the first 6 seconds, you’re less likely to get a response.
DON’T abuse the art of following up. Give editors a few days to get back – most of them travel or have deadlines that affect their ability to return emails that day. If you follow up and don’t hear back after a week, check in again and offer new solutions – have they had the opportunity to look over your pitch? If there isn’t a story there for them, is there something that might be more useful for them that you can help get them? And if you don’t hear back after that, then your pitch was likely deleted or not appropriate for their publication.
Approaching consumer media can seem challenging, but with a thoughtful approach, savvy storytelling, and an understanding of what each publication needs to be successful, there are plenty of opportunities for fresh produce brands to have a voice!
We’d love to hear about your consumer media success stories or challenges! Tweet us at @thecoreblog and @bethkeetonpr to let us know!