I started blogging in 2009, and over the course of three years I have read a gazillion blog posts and attended dozens of conference panels all dedicated to the topic of why PR pitches stink so badly.
I assumed these conversations would lead PR professionals to learn how to write great pitches. However, three years later, I think it is safe to say that 95 percent of pitches still stink. (Says the girl who was just invited to test drive a car from a New Jersey dealership. I live in Illinois.)
I’ve spent a great deal of time learning how to pitch bloggers in a way that would make them smile every time they saw my name in their inboxes, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.
Why does your pitch stink so badly?
1. They don’t know you.
Bloggers receive hundreds of emails each day not only from friends and family, but from readers with questions, editors at their freelance writing gigs, and PR pros with pitches.
To manage their inboxes, they have to filter through and choose which emails to read. If a blogger has never heard your name before, he might filter you out. If a blogger has never heard your name before and your subject line is something like “GIVEAWAY: NEW MOVIE RELEASE,” he will delete your email instantly. This means your pitch stunk so bad no one even opened it.
How to fix it: The truth is you need to start building a relationship with a blogger at least three months before you ever need to use it. Meet up with him at a conference, comment on his blog, or retweet his blog posts. Connect with him in a way that makes your name recognizable when it shows up in his inbox.
2. Your pitch is too long.
If your pitch requires scrolling, has bullet points, or includes a press release, no one is going to read past the first line. Bloggers get anywhere from five to hundreds of brand pitches a day, and they don’t have time to scroll through all the intimate details of your campaign.
While they might have opened your pitch, they probably didn’t read far enough to even know what brand you were reaching out about before deleting your pitch. (See more in my post, “What being a lush taught me about pitching media.”)
How to fix it: The initial pitch only needs a few things:
- A mention showing you know the blog and understand how the blogger works with brands.
- The name of the brand you are reaching out about.
- What you are asking the blogger to do.
- What you are offering the blogger.
- An offer to send over more information if he or she is interested.
Not only will you save yourself a lot of time, bloggers will actually read your email. The bloggers who are genuinely interested in what you are doing will respond.
Bonus: It can be hard to get a client to approve such a short pitch. Instead of talking about “pitching,” position your first outreach as an “initial email,” and then follow up with the pitch. The moment we stopped using snail mail or fax machines to send pitches is the moment we could send short emails and respond with a detailed pitch.
3. They don’t want to give your product away for free on their blogs.
Bloggers learn early on that hosting giveaways on their sites can drive a lot of traffic. (Assuming they give away something good.) However, they also learn that all of that traffic will disappear once the giveaway ends, because the people who clicked through to their sites only did so because they love free stuff.
Hosting a giveaway on your blog is like a one night stand with fame. Your traffic shoots up, you get really excited, and the next day everyone is gone and you are left picking red solo cups out of your yard (metaphorically speaking).
Generally, the only bloggers who want to host a giveaway on their sites are bloggers who rely solely on advertising revenue, because a big jump in traffic translates to more money. If they don’t rely solely on advertising revenue, they want you to compensate them for hosting. Giveaways take time, and there is no incentive for them to host them if they aren’t compensated.
How to fix it: Compensate them for hosting a giveaway, or find out what the value of the prize would need to be (or what kind of prize would naturally appeal to their readers) to incentivize them to host it.
4. They don’t want to drive readers away from their sites to your contest, giveaway or sweepstakes.
Why would they send their readers away from their blogs to enter your giveaway? Even if you are giving away a trip around the world with Dennis Rodman, you are asking bloggers to send their dedicated readers away from their sites. As I mentioned above, the majority of people who are interested in giveaways are people interested in free stuff, and very rarely are a blog’s dedicated readers interested in free stuff.
Unless the blogger you pitch creates content about trips around the world with Dennis Rodman, her readers probably won’t care about your giveaway and will be annoyed their favorite blogger sent them to such a terrible contest.
How to fix it: Buy an ad in the blog’s sidebar, host a sponsored post to drive traffic to your giveaway, or find a way to make your giveaway exciting enough that the blogger wants to promote it.
5. Your story is only interesting to you.
Getting editorial coverage from bloggers is really hard and rarely happens. It is not because bloggers are evil power moguls. It is because bloggers work really hard on their blogs. Running a blog can take a lot of time. (Says the girl who woke up two hours early to write this post.)
When you ask a blogger to write about your brand without any kind of compensation, you ask him to promote a brand for free on his blog (a.k.a. his business) that he invested a lot of time and energy into—a brand that clearly has enough money to hire a PR team.
This is why getting editorial coverage is tough. Because your story or opportunity needs to be so exciting to him that he doesn’t care that you don’t have a budget.
How to fix it: First, look at the content the blogger organically writes, and find a story he would organically tell. (However, that story better be interesting enough that he wants to tell it despite the fact there is no monetary incentive.)
Second, look at the blogger’s interests and what goals he has, and find a way to offer him an opportunity that helps him reach a big goal: meet a celebrity he’s obsessed with, attend an event he’s dying to go to, etc.
Bloggers and PR pros, weigh in. Why do you think pitches stink?
Cassie Boorn is a writer, social media specialist, entrepreneur, and PR girl. She blogs at Ask a PR Girl, where a version of this article originally appeared.