If you’re in digital PR, you’ve probably had your fair share of rejections, empty promises, and the dreaded silent treatment from the journalists on your outreach list after pitching a piece of content you were really excited about. I’ve found myself in these situations more times than I can count. It just comes with the territory. You can’t always control how your pitch, and the piece of content you’re promoting, will be received once it leaves your inbox. But, you can certainly control the message that’s paired with them.
The responses I’ve received from the media, the wisdom I’ve gained from coworkers, and the trial and error that comes with the outreach process have all taught me a lot of valuable lessons on how to course-correct a pitch that isn’t getting the attention I hope for.
Below are five of my top tips to consider when your pitch isn’t so perfect. Keep reading to learn more!
1. Get a Second Set of Eyes
As you’re writing your pitch, it’s so important to ask someone who isn’t familiar with the piece of content you’re pitching to give you feedback on your message. Having a second set of eyes on your work allows you to see your pitch from a fresh perspective. It’s easy to miss new angles or interesting insights if you have blinders on, but with a teammate’s help, you’ll be able to see if your pitch is confusing, too long, poorly laid out, or if there are any gaps you need to fill.
Our team does something we like to call “pitch swaps.” This is a strategy we’ve incorporated into our routine where we sit down and swap campaigns in outreach that are in need of attention and a fresh perspective. Each of us has different viewpoints and areas of interest, from sports to beauty to personal finance. For example, if I lack extensive knowledge about sports, swapping my pitch with a team member who is knowledgeable adds tremendous value to my pitch and insight into that beat.
If you haven’t started something like this yet with your team, I highly suggest it.
2. Rewrite, Revise, Repeat
Whether or not you decide to get a second set of eyes to review your pitch, it’s always a good idea for you to rewrite and revise it yourself. Here are some steps you can take to tweak your message before scrapping it entirely:
- Send out a new subject line – Always have 3-5 subject lines to test throughout the course of your outreach. If open rates are low for one subject line, switch to another.
- Pull out different insights – Maybe the insights you pulled out aren’t compelling enough. Take a look at the data again and come up with 2-3 additional data points to highlight.
- Cut the fluff and get to the point – Reporters receive hundreds of pitches per week, sometimes per day. Take the ‘less is more’ approach, cut out your fluffy introduction sentence and get straight into the campaign insights.
- Take NSFW words out of your subject line – Sometimes here at Go Fish Digital, we pitch campaigns that might raise a few eyebrows. We’ve learned through trial and error that pitching a campaign with a suggestive word in the subject line sends our pitches straight into the spam folder. So, to avoid that, come up with safely-worded subject lines that will still get your message across.
- Add a follow-up email – Sometimes all it takes to get a response is to send a follow-up email. While some reporters despise these, we’ve found that following up can increase your open and response rates.
3. Target Smarter not Harder
Sometimes it’s not your pitch – it’s whom you’re pitching to.
If you find that a significant amount of your emails are bouncing, spend some time digging up a reporter’s most up-to-date contact information. You can do this via social media, LinkedIn, or any media database you have access to. One tool our team finds really valuable when hunting down contact information is Hunter.io. It’s a quick and fool-proof Chrome extension that scrapes web pages for email addresses.
Another thing to consider is that you may be contacting reporters who don’t cover the topic you’re pitching anymore. For example, someone who covered pet topics for an outlet one year ago may not be interested in your pet story if they now cover fashion and beauty somewhere else.
4. Go Back to the Drawing Board
While this isn’t the most ideal option, sometimes it is best to go back to the drawing board. Before doing so, ask yourself or a coworker these questions:
- Is the data confusing?
- Are the graphics displaying the data clearly?
- Can the graphics stand alone without a blog post?
- Is my data outdated? If so, can I go back and find recent data to make it more relevant?
Remember that this is the first time a reporter is seeing your campaign. If they can’t figure out what they’re looking at or what the point of it is, the message will fall flat and you’ll lose your shot at coverage.
5. Reconsider Your Timing
Take a step back and ask yourself if what you’re pitching is relevant to the news cycle right now. If not, you may need to reconsider your timing so you can get the most interest from your pitching. For instance, if you’re pitching a graduation campaign too far away from graduation season, you probably won’t get any coverage. But, if you pause outreach for a few weeks or months, reporters are much more likely to be interested in covering your piece.
Additionally, some topics have short windows that they can be pitched in to receive the maximum amount of coverage. If you miss that window, whether it’s a holiday, event, or season, it can be really hard to recover. So, if you’re pitching a time-sensitive piece of content, give yourself at least three weeks to aggressively pitch before the event or holiday.
Even the most seasoned marketers who specialize in digital PR don’t get it right on their first try. A large chunk of building links and obtaining coverage across media outlets is out of your hands, so it’s important to set realistic expectations for yourself and your clients. However, remember that there are things you can do to refresh your pitch when things aren’t going as planned.
What steps do you take when your pitch isn’t so perfect? Let us know in the comments below!