The last thing you want is to give media professionals a valid reason to dislike you or your work!
Just like you, I’m an author trying to get his work in front of more readers. But, for some 30 years, I’ve also been on the other side of the desk: I was the guy that you wanted to do an interview, or write a review, or otherwise tell my audience that you exist and they should buy your content.
Who are the media? In today’s world—and for your purposes—that means all kinds of people: Television producers, newspaper editors, radio producers, podcasters, bloggers, reviewers, and anyone else with an audience.
In my time with the media, I’ve worked at nearly every type of outlet—including newspapers, radio, print magazines, digital magazines, blogs, and websites. From one job to the next, my audiences have included college students, young brides, rock music fans, and senior citizens, among others. I’ve written local human interest stories and I’ve interviewed celebrities.
Over those years, I’ve received many pitches, for many types of products. So, to help you out, I’m going to share what my point of view was back when I was your contact. Because the last thing you want is to give the gatekeeper a valid reason to dislike you or your work!
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How Not to Annoy Editors, Journalists, Reviewers, and Other Members of the Media
Note: Throughout this article, I’ll be speaking from the perspective of an editor. Depending on the medium or the size of the staff, your specific contact may hold a different title. However, good manners and professionalism are always the way to go.
01) MAKE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION.
If you’re a writer, then you need to apply the same level of care to your email or letter that you apply to your core work. Write your introductory message, revise it, edit it, and check for spelling and grammar and everything else.
Be polite, be professional, and be patient. Whether you’re contacting someone at a major professional media outlet, or a fellow author with a blog, you have to remember that this person has a lot on their plate. The more popular their outlet, the more who are competing for that person’s attention and time.
As such, your initial contact needs to be polite and informative. My InBox is always full, so once your email is in front of my eyes, you need to make it worth my time.
What do I mean by “worth my time”? Simply this: Explain who you are, explain what you’re pitching, and include an appropriate amount of information for me to make a quick assessment of whether what you have is suitable for my audience.
I don’t have time to track down information about you. If your email fails to keep me engaged, there’s no reason I can’t just move on to the next email. I have no shortage of pitches from which to choose.
Don’t include attachments. Do include links: to your website, to information about your work, and to anything else salient. Make your contact personal; avoid making your pitch sound like a simple form letter.
Ready to start connecting with the media? Download this free blueprint to help you get started!
02) REMEMBER THAT YOU’RE NOT ENTITLED TO COVERAGE.
Speaking on behalf of media gatekeepers everywhere, we do not owe you anything. Our obligation is to our employers, and to our audience in aggregate.
- make demands.
- tell the editor how to do his job
- insult his work, his outlet, or his colleagues
03) RESEARCH THE OUTLET FIRST.
Before you target an outlet, you need to genuinely know what they cover, and the type of audience they serve. Make an effort to figure out who you’re contacting—specifically, who is the person to whom you’re writing? (If there’s a staff box, you have no excuse if you didn’t look for the correct name.)
Staff boxes found in the front pages of magazine Fast Company and newspaper Nashville Ledger
Figure out ahead of time whether your pitch is even appropriate for this audience. Otherwise, you’re just wasting everybody’s time. Do not pitch a review or type of article if they never do that sort of thing. If they decide to make an exception, you’re not the one who gets to decide that.
Ready to make your list of media outlets to pitch? Download these free worksheets to help you stay organized!
04) DON'T BE PUSHY.
An editor has a schedule to maintain. Depending on all kinds of factors, an editorial calendar may be worked out weeks or months in advance.
So, even if you have a product that is a perfect fit, that doesn’t mean I am in a position to jump on it right now. Depending on the medium, I may also be juggling issues of time (for example, scheduling guests for a program) or physical space (i.e., limited page count).
Here’s the thing: Do not pester me about whether I received your materials, or whether I will cover you, or how soon it might happen.
The flipside: At any given time, I am wading through so much information that is is very possible that I loved your pitch, but I forgot about you. Or I misplaced it. As such, it is not necessarily a bad thing to re-connect with the editor after several weeks.
Bonus points if you actually have some new or different information to pitch.
In my days working with the music business, the best publicists were those who gave me multiple points of entry to cover a band or an artist. They didn’t just send the initial press release, and then forget about it; they came back six or eight weeks later with a entirely new press release, offering a completely different reason to cover their artists. Brilliant! Even if the first pitch did not fit into my editorial calendar for one reason or another, one or more of the subsequent pitches did land.
Multiple points of entry meant multiple reminders, as well as multiple appearances in front of my audience! Over the course of several months, that same artist might have appeared in a blurb in the news column, had his or her product reviewed, be included in a small article, and be interviewed for a major feature story.
Here is the thing: Anything you can do to make the editor’s job easier will work in your favor.
05) DON'T MAKE IT HARD TO COVER YOU OR YOUR BOOK.
Remember all those links you put in your email? It won’t help if I click through and can’t find the information I need. Make sure your website includes:
- a good author photograph (available in both high resolution and also low resolution)
- a good quality image of your book cover (also hi and lo res)
- up-to-date information about you and your books
- and all the (working) links a website visitor might need
It also needs to be easy to know how to contact you. Different editors have different preferences: some want digital materials, other prefer hard copies; some like to talk with the subject over the phone, others prefer to do the entire conversation via email. You need to make sure that your original email includes clear information about how a member of the media can follow up with you.
Here’s your takeaway:
When you contact the media*...
- Be polite.
- Be professional.
- Be helpful.
*(Editors, journalists,podcasters, reviewers, and anyone else with an audience you want to reach)
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