In the PR industry a “cold” pitch refers to when you pitch your story to a stranger without any prior connection – and with the intent that they will cover your story. While this is easier said than done, crafting a cold pitch is fairly formulaic. Once you perfect the formula, you can have confidence that you’ve done everything on your part to entice the journalist/blogger/writer to write a story they weren’t already planning on doing.
And guess what? Cold pitching – also known as getting people to listen and care about your story – is a skill that keeps on giving. Master this skill, and it will serve you well in many other aspects of your life from the personal to the professional.
Below we’ll cover the formula of what makes an effective cold pitch and provide a few examples.
1. Do your homework, and target effectively
We can’t stress this enough. Who you’re pitching is just as important as the quality of your pitch. Pitch the media outlets that have an audience that will care about your story, otherwise don’t bother. Same goes for the person you’re sending your pitch to. If you’re looking at the masthead of a publication and selecting the Editor-in-Chief to email, don’t hold your breath for a response. Do your homework, and find the reporter who regularly covers or writes articles relevant to your industry and audience.
2. Create a clear, compelling subject line
This is the first thing the journalist will read, so you want to make it easy to read and compelling enough to convince them to open the email. Be clear and straight to the point about what you have to offer.
3. Perfect your messaging
This is the meat of your pitch, and where the “crafting” part comes in. The body of your pitch should include all of the following:
Keep your pitch as concise as possible – no more than 3 (short) paragraphs max. If your pitch requires scrolling, keep cutting and revising until it meets the 3 (short) paragraph maximum.
Personalize your pitch. It’s okay to use a template for structure, but that’s about it. Everything else about your pitch should be customized to the writer and publication. If your pitch sounds like a template mass email, forget about it.
Use common language. Your pitch should sound like it was written by a friendly, professional human – not a sales-person, butler, or bot.
Bullet points are your friend. If you’re finding it hard to encapsulate your story idea into a short paragraph, use bullet points to break it up. Just don’t go crazy with them (no more than 3).
Follow Up. Reporters are busy people. They may take a long time to respond, and it’s possible they found your story idea interesting, bookmarked it for later, and forgot about it. With cold pitches, a follow-up email can sometimes help move things along. Just keep it extremely brief and polite, and don’t follow up multiple times.
As promised, here are some shining examples of effective cold pitches:
Example 1: The less formal take
Subject: Why consistency is the biggest fitness obstacle for your December fitness issue
I see that you guys are doing a fitness double issue in December and I wanted to run an idea by you.
[Brief, straight to the point introduction]
Most fitness stories talk about eating right and exercising. But consistency is what really trips people up and it’s rare to see a good article on how to execute a fitness plan with consistency.
[Brief but specific story idea for a relevant topic that is less covered]
My entire business depends on getting people to stick with their diet and exercise plan. I’d love to share some examples, stories and tactics that I’ve learned over my seven years of helping people in the fitness industry. If you’re interested, you can learn more about those seven years here: www.jordanfitness.com/bio
[Demonstrates experience and value, with a link to more detailed information]
Can we set up a time for a quick chat? You can reach me at: Jordan@jordanfitness.com .
[Call to action and contact information]
Example 2: The more formal take
Subject: The relation between medical malpractice suits and rising healthcare costs for your April issue
As part of Health Law Magazine’s regular April special on Medical Malpractice, I would like to propose a story topic for your readers on the relation between medical malpractice suits and rising healthcare costs.
[A short introductory paragraph, that refers to an upcoming issue, demonstrates knowledge of the publication, and suggests a specific story idea]
Recent studies show that missed diagnosis has become the leading source of medical malpractice cases, leading to a sharp rise in the amount of preliminary tests and procedures that doctors order for their patients. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the statistics and studies behind this trend, as well as the implications it has for medical malpractice reform, and the broader (very timely) issue of healthcare costs in the U.S.
[A short paragraph that fleshes out the story idea with some facts, ties it to another timely topic, and demonstrates their value as a source]
My name is Jim Smith, and I am the founder and lead attorney of Jim Smith Attorneys, a medical malpractice law firm based in Boston. Please let me know a good time we can discuss this idea further. You can contact me directly at (847) 835-8895 or via email at email@example.com .
[Conclusion paragraph includes a brief bio, call to action, and contact information]
Jim Smith Attorneys
Example 3: The in-between
Subject: Latest statistics on how consumer reviews affect business growth for your “New Year” review
I’m an avid reader of Small Biz Technology Blog and would love to suggest a story topic for your annual “New Year” review.
[Quick intro demonstrating intent and knowledge of publication]
The Story Idea: A 2014 study found that reviews influence 79 percent of consumers’ decisions, and that these numbers are expected to grow in 2015. I think your small business readers would be really interested in learning more about the growing impact of customer reviews sites, and how they can use consumer reviews to fuel sales growth in 2015.
[Clearly labeled and fleshed out story idea]
About Me: I launched my own software company Awesome Reviews in 2012, which monitors and analyzes consumer review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, and many more – for small and large businesses. Through Awesome Reviews, I’ve gained a lot of insight on how consumer reviews impact many types of businesses, and how business owners can leverage those reviews to grow their business. I’d be happy to give you some examples, share some best practices and provide any other facts that might be interesting to your readers.
[Clearly labeled bio demonstrating expertise and value]
If you think this is interesting, can we set up a quick conversation this week? You can reach me at: [phone number/email address].
[Call to action and contact information]
Want more tips on how to pitch the press? Follow us on Twitter @BitesizePR!