Pitch Perfect

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on TheBizyMom.com

I receive dozens of email solicitations every day, from PR queries and blog post pitches to product reviews and service ads. And while my time is precious (and most of the pitches are off target), my role at The Mogul Mom requires that I stay at the leading edge of business and motherhood trends, continually source new and unique writing talent for guest posts and seek out promising opportunities and partnerships to pass on to our readers. Which means I (or my team) go through them all. Yep, you heard me: ALL.

I give every email its due consideration of about a millisecond while my cursor hovers uneasily between save and delete. And so must any agency, organization or media outlet that fields talent and ideas. If you have something to pitch–and I’m guessing all of you do–this is great news. Because it means you have at least a shot at being seen and that your chances for success have everything to do with factors that you control. The key is to master the secrets of turning that millisecond audition into a momentary pause, a click and a response.

Time and again I see the same fatal mistakes in the pitches I pass over. Strange as it may seem it’s the deceptively banal details that actually make me linger and respond. I share my secrets of editor intrigue in hopes that you lovely, lion-hearted mogul moms will pitch perfect and do us all proud. 😉

The Secrets to Being Pitch Perfect

1. It’s NOT About You

I cannot stress this point enough. It’s as true in courting editors as it is in dating. Spend the whole evening talking about yourself, demonstrate little interest or blatant misinformation about the other party and you’re not likely to get called back for a second date. The same is true when pitching.

I would estimate that at least 75% of the emails I receive for The Mogul Mom address me by first name–unfortunately it’s usually the wrong one. Personally, I’m willing to overlook it–after all, I’m relatively new here–but I know many other editors consider it a deal breaker. I even have publicists with whom I’ve partnered in lengthy projects, who still send pitches addressing me by the wrong name! Even though these emails are likely auto-generated, it’s no excuse.

When in the unnerving position of being interviewed or scrutinized, most of us tend to fall back onto self-promotion. We worry we may not be considered or we may be misperceived, so we talk up our qualifications and experience. This is almost always the wrong move. And possibly the reason so many marketing campaigns fail. Instead, do your research. Ensure the contact information you’re using is current. Show them you know who THEY are.

If you’re pitch includes the sentiment that your idea/writing/product is ideal for the recipient, make sure you demonstrate knowledgeability about the recipient. Wow the editor with a thoughtful reflection about their audience, their legacy or traditions or a cutting edge direction for their future. Once you do that, a simple “that’s where I come in” will suffice. Chances are, you’ll get a bite.

2. Be Proper

I don’t mean to overwork the dating analogy, but in many ways, good dating behavior is just good relating. What woman (even those of us who are drawn to the ‘bad boys’ or fancy ourselves healthily liberated) isn’t impressed when a date opens her car door? C’mon ladies, admit it! There’s something to be said for propriety, manners and good ole’ fashioned courtesy. Why? Because it makes us feel respected. And that’s something everyone wants.

What is respect in an email pitch? Simply put: spell-check. Along with proper formatting, alignment, terms of address, and fully-spelled words, it almost guarantees you a response in my world. Unfortunately, I can’t respond only to respectable emails, because I receive so few of them. Every time I get one I try to turn it in to something, even if it’s really off-target, just so I can savor for a little longer the calm that is reading properly-written communication.

Maybe I’m old school. But it’s my opinion that we have plenty of outlets for the short form, with its torturously abbreviated spellings and fragmented ideas. And a pitch email is not one of them.

3. While Less Can Be More, Nothing Is Not More

Many of our current thought leaders in marketing, emphasize the importance of the brief pitch. While I agree this can be a very effective measure, I suspect it is in part responsible for the emails I receive every week, asking permission to submit a guest post. This is problematic primarily because our open call for guest posts is clearly stated on the site. These emails make me feel like the senders aren’t paying attention and that they will go on wasting my time if I let them, so they generally don’t garner a response.

Brevity in an email pitch is crucially important, because the people reading them have a lot of volume to get through. However, brevity is not enough on its own. Make sure you say something in your pitch, ideally the exact something that the recipient requested (if it’s an open call) or a valuable nugget of an idea, with a clearly stated proposal of what you’re offering. Someone who includes specific information about their proposal in their email is more likely to be chosen than someone who merely hints at an idea that involves more email exchange to develop.

4. Be Generous

I was in an establishment in New Orleans recently, and posted by the front door was a “barred list,” featuring names like “Crazy Jimmy” and “Patrick the tarot card reader.” I thought it was so funny I took a picture. If we had a “barred list” at The Mogul Mom, it would feature nicknames like “More Please girl” or “I Need It Published Sooner guy,” and sadly, it would be pretty long.

Here’s the thing. If you are so lucky as to have your pitch picked up, the best thing you can do is to make a big show of gratitude and generosity. As an editor, I put a lot of time and energy into selecting, revising, polishing and re-revising our blog posts so that they bring maximum value to our readers and maximum reach for our guest bloggers. Hours are dedicated to planning and scheduling of the editorial calendar, which is to say nothing of the actual editing time. And we’re still a pretty small shop! Imagine the demands on the time of the people you’re pitching, many of whom work under extreme pressure.

It’s not to say you don’t put a lot of work into what you’re pitching (you do) and that the person you’re pitching doesn’t stand to gain by what you’re offering (she does), but agents and editors are people too. Being gracious goes a long way. If you’re a writer and someone has agreed to publish your work, follow up with a note of thanks and a question of what you can do to make their lives easier.

Resist the urge to make your first email after being picked up, a request that the editor do more for you or make the run date earlier or in some other way bend or break the rules. It’s in really poor taste, makes people feel unappreciated, and might land you on a barred list.

Now it’s time to get out there and pitch perfect. I know you can do it!

I would love to hear your “pitching stories!” Whether you were pitcher or receiver, tell us in the comments about your tips, triumphs and tales of woe.

Megan Barnes

Megan Barnes is the former owner of The Mogul Mom. She is a creative writer residing happily in Mississippi with her beloved husband and two dogs.

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2 Comments

  1. Nicole Kinney

    Megan, great post! I really think you make a great point in emphasizing that a pitch can’t be all about you! It’s counter intuitive, because you’re trying to get someone to recognize how interesting you/your ideas are. But I’ve been so surprised at how even just looking up the most recent story an editor or blogger wrote and noting what I liked about the story (in a sincere way) to open my email gets me MUCH better response rates.

    The other day, I did this, and got a call back in under 3 minutes.

    Reply
    • Megan Barnes

      Thank you, Nicole! Given that this is your realm, that means a lot. I’m finding over and over again that authentic generosity brings many returns in business. I believe that solid business relationships begin with the generosity of genuine interest and knowledge about the other…

      Thanks for sharing. And props on your pitching success! 😉

      Reply

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