How do publicists pitch media, and what does “pitching” really mean?

Dear Savvy Pro:

As I mentioned last week, I get a lot of questions about being a publicist and the work involved, particularly from authors who want to not only understand book publicity and marketing, but are thinking about doing some pitching themselves.

To that end, I’m providing a Q&A series over the next month or two featuring some of the most asked questions, and here is #2:

How do publicists pitch media, and what does “pitching” really mean?

Pitching takes various forms with tailored pitches being your best bet for most situations. However, there are some times when press releases actually work better.

Press releases:

A book press release contains all the benefits to the reader along with contact information and details for ordering the book. Since this most frequently goes to trade reviewers that inform bookstores and libraries for the sell-in process, the ordering information is critical. Of course, releases can be sent to any reviewer, and in fact, a release should go out with any book that goes out the door.
Another reason for press releases is when you have any kind of event, e.g., a bookstore, library event, or if you’re giving a speech somewhere. It’s the who, what, where, when and why of the event. This distribution of information is the easiest way to get it out there and doesn’t require a tailored pitch.

Tailored pitches:

These are pitches that take the subject and aim it at a particular market, e.g., careers or workplace, and then target even further taking into consideration the target of the media outlet, and even one step further toward the journalist, writer or editor you’re approaching.

Which type of pitch would you use?

I covered this in some of the reasons above, but this is a good time to say that I hear lots of arguments on blogs and social media about press releases and whether or not they still work. Many fall into the camp of thinking they are outdated, usually from some media folks who don’t like them and have their own way of wanting to receive information. They assume that because they have a preference for how to be pitched that other media share that same preference. This simply is not true.

When I was in media myself, I made the same assumptions about how to approach media and even participated in conference panels where I said the same thing. I assumed that how I liked receiving information was what my broadcast media brothers and sisters preferred too. What an eye opener it was when I launched my business and discovered that everyone is different with regard to how they want to be approached. Each media person is unique regarding interaction. Yes, there are some patterns, but overall, well, you know what they say about the word “assume.” Pay attention to what each media player wants and give it to them that way.

The important piece to understand here is that while things are always changing, there are fundamentals that remain the same. Each tool has a purpose and as long as you use the right tool for the intended purpose, you’ll be fine. Press releases work in select situations, tailored pitches in most others.

Your pitch is as good as the time you put into it.

Whatever method you choose for your pitch, you’ll need to write compelling copy and more. You might be able to quickly get your pitch out the door as a press release, but if you want to take the more targeted approach of a tailored pitch, you’ll need to take more time, as it requires tons of research so that you are familiar with who you are approaching.

Some authors have a difficult time doing all the research needed for a tailored pitch. They get impatient and want to write one template and send it out to everyone. Not taking the time for a tailored pitch can be the “Kiss of Death” in publicity. We live in a world where everyone can see what everyone else is doing almost instantaneously, so you have to be very specific and know who you’re targeting and what they want. And, you have to give them a unique idea or tips that haven’t been heard over and over and over again.

In addition WHAT information to send, keep in mind HOW each media outlet likes to receive information.  Some want a short and to-the-point email, others want all the information at once, and still others want a digital book straight away. Some prefer a hard copy book mailed to them first. Some media prefer a phone call over an email, and vice versa. You increase your chances of success by approaching them the way they want to be approached and not the way YOU want to do it.

The major key here is worth repeating: You increase your chances of success by approaching media the way they want to be approached and not the way YOU want to do it. Get out of yourself and your own preferences.  This improves your chances of coverage significantly. It’s really very simple, yet most don’t do this.

Bottom line: Get specific.

Don’t just offer yourself as a resource: Pitch ideas. Letting a media person know that you’ve written a book on such and such a topic and you’re available as an expert should they be working on a story is way too passive. For one thing, you’re expecting them to do the work and think about how to use you as a resource. In our over-stimulated, every-one-is-too-busy-world, they aren’t going to do that. You must spoon feed your ideas targeting them to the right person with the right angle. Again, it isn’t brain surgery, but it takes time, thought, and skill.

You must think like a journalist, editor, producer, podcaster, host, content manager, and so on. Who is their audience? What are they looking for? How can you help? And then you have to offer real, concrete story and segment ideas.  If you can do that, you are going to get coverage and visibility. It really is quite simple.

To your success!
Joanne

P.S. August is right around the corner. Can you tie your book into any of these special days? If so, you can make your book newsworthy again, as I discuss here. August is:

  • American Adventures Month
  • Black Business Month
  • Boomers Making a Difference Month
  • Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month
  • Children’s Vision and Learning Month
  • Immunization Awareness Month
  • Pirate Month  Here is a music playlist for Pirate Month.
  • Read-a-Romance Month
  • Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month
  • What Will Be Your Legacy Month