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The wonderful, whacky world of “pitching” the media
May 20, 2009 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments
As I write this Monday Morning Wake-Up, I’m in New York City attending the National Publicity Summit. This is a venue for authors to receive training on that most worthy of pursuits – getting press coverage in the media. The pre-event coaching concentrated on creating a two and a half minute media pitch. But the real focus of this Summit is to actually deliver your pitch to over 100 media producers and editors over three days. (It’s Friday morning and I’ll be starting day two in about two hours.)
When I say, “pitch over 100 media producers and editors,” here’s what that looks like. Over the three days, there are five “meet the media” sessions each lasting a couple of hours. We get to pre-select which media producers and editors we want to meet with beginning with our number one pick. When a “meet the media” session begins, the authors enter a ballroom where each media is set up with a table and stool. We’re given schedules with our media picks and our numbered slot. When it’s our turn, we get our two and a half minutes to make our pitch, answer questions and, hopefully, get told we will be contacted or to follow up.
Here’s a sampling of the media I pitched on my first day: “The Today Show,” “ABC News,” “Fortune Small Business,” “Good Morning America,” “Now” on PBS, plus writers for Entrepreneur, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, business radio shows and more.
Now, I’ve gotten myself into some pretty interesting situations over my career, but doing the equivalent of speed dating with the major media sent my stress level soaring and my nerves in hyper drive. In fact, every author in the house fumbled through their first few pitches like kids auditioning for a part in the school play. But we all quickly calmed down and got into our groove.
There are two lessons I want to share from this experience. First, the only way we can grow and reach our full potential is to place ourselves in situations that make us stretch and challenge our abilities. This was one of those experiences that truly pushed me forward.
The second lesson is the hit list the media gave us for getting their attention. Here are the key points:
- Get to the point: The media receives thousands of email pitches a day. Picture yourself on deadline and your email box overflowing with mail. You blow through the list looking for nuggets of gold – with your finger on the “delete” button. Multi-paragraph pitches that ramble get deleted. The subject line is your story pitch line – make it sell your story. Keep your story pitch to one paragraph consisting of three or four sentences. No attachments of any kind if you want your email to make it past the spam filters.
- Be relevant to current events: The better you tie your pitch to current events the more likely your story will be noticed. The media game is all about getting a story that no one else has – getting the scoop. That sells advertising.
- Study the media you’re pitching: Every TV show, newspaper, radio and magazine has it’s own style. Study the media you’re pitching and try to match your pitch to their style of reporting. Remember, the producer or reporter has their finger on the delete button.
- Be persistent – but not annoying: None of the media really clarified what this means, but suffice it to say that if you’re emailing and calling a producer or reporter a lot, you’ll get tagged as spam or simply ignored. All gave examples of stories that were eventually done simply because the pitch hit at the right time. Use good judgment.
I attended the National Publicity Summit with my publisher. The first evening he warned me that I will likely meet authors “who speak to the dead.” Yeah, sure. First evening I met a criminal attorney that was a medium. Later, I met an author who said, “My book was written by my dead husband.” Who wants to listen to such stuff? Well, the next morning while watching “The Today Show,” they had a guest who talked to the dead relatives of four people from the audience.
Gotta go pitch “The Early Show” and Time magazine.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO
Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up