As the editor-in-chief of Thrillist, I see pitching from both sides: Our communications department promotes our stories to other publications, and my team gets hundreds of e-mails a day from businesses that want to get in front of our audience. Drawing on both experiences, here’s a simple step-by-step guide to successful pitching.
1. Make a list of all the publications in which you'd like your business to appear. You may have a wish list, but it can be useful to pick a few successful companies similar to your own and see which outlets covered them early on.
2. Put your list in order. Rank the publications from the ones in which you'd most like to appear, down to the least desired.
3. Look into each outlet’s expectation of exclusivity. This should help you readjust your priority list. Even though publication A is bigger and more prestigious than the rest, publication B may have an editorial policy forbidding them from following any other outlets. Because you could get coverage in B and then later in A, organizing your priority list by expectation of exclusivity should factor into how you weigh it. B plus A is greater than A alone.
4. Closely read each of your top three to five choices. Who is writing about companies like yours? What elements repeat through their coverage? Do they go in-depth or skim the surface of the story? Are they old school and worth calling as well as e-mailing?
5. Pitch your number one, and concisely present yourself on a silver platter. If you have a bill-splitting app and you’re pitching a men’s magazine, point out how perfect it is for settling up after a guy’s night out or bachelor party. If you are pitching a business journal, play up the cleverness of your model rather than which notable has been seen using it.
6. If you don’t hear back, follow up. Because of the high number of pitches received, gatekeepers are totally deluged and even the most organized can let something slip through the cracks. A polite follow-up asking if they’ve had time to read your original message can jumpstart the process.
7. Know when to move on. If you’ve given your top choice a couple of days after your follow-up e-mail, move on down your list and fully shift your attention to your next priority.
8. Be thorough. Of course you should approach each new publication with the same thoughtfulness, but repurposing a pitch can introduce some sloppy errors. Variations in text font, size or color are a telltale sign of a cut-and-paste job and immediately signal to an editor that they’re getting someone’s leftovers.