biz ladiesLife & Business

Biz Ladies: Perfecting the Pitch

by Stephanie

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes to us from Amy Flurry, a writer and editor for 18 years with work featured in InStyle, Conde Nast Traveler, Lucky, Paste, House Beautiful, O at Home, Country Living and Daily Candy. Amy has also authored a new DIY publicity book, Recipe for Press: Pitch Your Story Like the Pros & Create a Buzz. Flurry now travels the country giving her popular DIY publicity workshop that serves to strengthen relationships between editors and entrepreneurs. She is also co-founder of Paper-Cut-Project, and creates styling elements in paper for design productions.

Today Amy is sharing her expertise in perfecting your pitch to editors. Thanks, Amy, for sharing this helpful insight. — Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump . . .

Today there are more opportunities than ever for small businesses and entrepreneurs to get press, both in print and online. Magazines have made a comeback, with new and niche titles showing up daily on bookstore stands. And placements on popular blogs and online publications with a shorter pitch-to-print timeline have become as coveted as a feature in a national magazine.

But editors and writers like me, who are often writing for more than one publication and responsible for filling additional online pages, are besieged with inquiries. It is our job to quickly sift through an inbox flush with proposals for new material while still meeting deadlines. The task (and hope) of the publicist or the person pitching is to connect their idea to the pages we produce.

Here’s what you need to know: Editors make decisions about moving forward with a pitch within the first few seconds of opening the email.

So smart publicists have begun adjusting their pitching format to this new, time-crunched reality, shortening the pitch length to one or two small paragraphs and pairing it with a great image (embedded directly into the body of the email so it’s the first thing the editor sees upon opening it). The fact sheet or condensed paragraph, while still important, is available to the editor in a link.

I’ve recently heard concern from people who were not receiving the same response from their press releases as they had enjoyed in the past. Truth is, nothing sends editors and bloggers reaching for the delete button faster than a page-long sleeper of facts. And knowing that the same press release just went out to every media contact on your list makes it all the easier to pass on.

Still, the content of a press release is important to media. But how and where you make this available to an editor may determine the degree of your success in landing press.

Rarely do writers report on something exactly as the PR person behind the press release intended anyway. We want to discover the story that is right for our pages, to find an angle or approach within the news to cover. Help an editor get to that place faster, and you’re on your way to a great relationship and multiple placements over time.

A friend and fellow editor explained that she usually scans a press release for what she needs (when the business launched, when the next gallery show will open, etc.) and then tries to find her own story. “A press release can organically inspire another idea or become a source of information for a larger package or roundup I’m working on. But original stories are preferable,” she says. “So to that point, I usually create an entirely new spin on a topic after a media alert brings it to my attention.”

Knowing this, you can better your odds of interesting the editor or blogger by pitching an angle that would be a great fit to the pages they pull together each issue. A link to the facts or further information (for once you have piqued their interest) is now one element of a more personalized pitch.

What does a pitch look like today? It more closely resembles a short letter, addressed to a specific editor (name spelled correctly) with an intro, a nugget of news, a press-ready image that looks like it could be plugged directly onto the page and a link to information if the editor is interested in learning more. Says another editor, “I suppose the approach to editors has changed in the same way our readers have changed — we also want short/quick bits of information with a great visual!”

So to add to that, the up-front work is still on the person doing the pitching. But assuming that you are pitching an outlet that already covers the type of story, product or service you are submitting, you are in great shape and will have more success in landing press. And that is a great value to any small business.

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  • I met Amy when she gave a presentation here in Austin on this very topic. She is completely spot on with her advice. Funny story—and I can’t make this up—I’m meeting with one of my authors tomorrow about the marketing plan for his upcoming book, and I set Amy’s book by the front door so I wouldn’t forget it. It’s his homework assignment to read before our conference call with the publisher’s PR department. What a kick to open my feedblitz and see this story. Congrats, Amy!

  • This information is right on time because I am researching how to prepare a media plan for my new/website and spring product launch. How can we find out where Amy’s next seminar will take place? I just sent her an email.

  • I’m super happy that this is helpful. Editors want you to know this information, they just don’t have time to share, one-on-one. Editors are looking for new material all of the time (and then they don’t find you, it’s your job to reach out to them) but is should be done in a way that allows your service or product the best possible consideration!

  • We were at the workshop in Austin as well, and we LOVED what we learned, Amy. (Also purchased a few copies of your book, which is incredible.)

    Thanks for such a fantastic piece–am sharing it far and wide.

  • Such a great article! As a PR student, my classes often feel outdated. Is it too soon to say the press release is dead?

  • This is very helpful information, thank you so much for sharing!! I enjoyed reading about the importance of a strong visual and concise and catchy information about the product in pitches, great strategy!

  • I’m an interiors editor by day (and blogger by night) and just wanted to say how much I agree with all these tips and suggestions. I think small businesses often underestimate just how many press releases journalists receive each day and the noise they have to cut through to get heard. Shorter really is better!
    Really great post Amy.

  • Amy you know I am in your camp and a huge cheerleader of Recipe for Press. I have first hand experience with success using your advice and strategic approach to DIY publicity. Perfecting the pitch is a skill that is invaluable in my industry and I would be nowhere without your sage advice! Great post!

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