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Carolyn Moncel

The Power is in the "Pitch" Letter

 

by Carolyn Moncel

Ask the average small-business owner and most will tell you that they know they need to actively promote their businesses to the media. Sometimes it's a matter of not knowing where to begin, but many fall short of achieving their publicity goals when faced with the prospect of having to write the dreaded press release. Yikes!!

 

Yes, writing press releases can be a scary affair, but did you know that there's an even more effective tool available in your PR arsenal? It's called the "Pitch Letter." Taking time to learn how to write one skillfully in order to attract the media's attention could reap far greater benefits than a traditional press release and here's why.

 

Writing an effective pitch letter accomplishes two goals. It not only shows the reporter that you understand your business and how it fits into a specific industry, but it also shows the reporter that you understand what types of stories he or she likes to cover. The reporter will be impressed that you've done your homework.

 

Pitch letters are personalized. You can't send out pitch letters to reporters blindly - not even to a targeted list of reporters all covering the same industry. So when a reporter gets your letter, he or she surely knows that the letter received is tailored to his or her needs alone.

 

Pitch letters are meant to be exclusive. You may have some basic points that are important for all reporters to know about your business, but your primary job is to craft a relevant, yet different story angle for each targeted reporter.

 

Consider these eight steps when constructing your pitch letter:

 

  1. Begin with a greeting.

  2. Introduce an intriguing issue relevant to the reporter. This is the first paragraph of your letter, and use it to demonstrate your familiarity with a specific reporter's work and the topics he or she covers.

  3. State a relevant problem and/or consequence. Identify an emerging trend or big issue within your industry, and prove that you understand its impact in both the long and short term.

  4. Provide a solution and introduce your company. Introduce your company and describe how your services provide solutions. Emphasize why your solutions or ideas should matter - not only to the reporter but to your potential customers.

  5. Supply a link to background information. Direct the reporter to your online newsroom to review company press releases, fact sheets and third-party testimonials.

  6. Close with an action you intend the reporter to take and thank them for their consideration. Ask the reporter to consider visiting your company website; invite the reporter on a tour of your facilities if appropriate, or simply ask the reporter to contact you via phone or e-mail to discuss details for a possible feature story.

  7. Include all means of contact. Add you name, title, company and mailing address. Reporters must know how to reach you in a 24-hour cycle so also include your phone number (office, home and cell), fax number, pager number, e-mail address, and your IM address.

  8. Keep your letter short. After writing a draft continue editing until the message is informative, concise and direct. The reporter will greatly appreciate this gesture because it's considerate. Reporters don't have time to read long missives.

 

Keep in mind that the number of reporters targeted doesn't matter nearly as much as the impact and size of the reporter's' readership. Targeting one reporter might yield greater results than sending a press release to 100 reporters. That's why if given a choice, many PR professionals will spend the extra time cultivating, one-on-one relationships with one reporter at a time. This is also why it takes a long time to actually attain media coverage.

 

Here's an example to illustrate my point. It might be very important for your company to receive media coverage among reporters covering the automotive industry. Therefore you might want to spend time getting to know the needs of the automotive reporter at USA Today and pitching him or her ideas in hopes of securing a large feature rather than sending out general press releases to all the automotive reporters in your database. A press release sent out to hundreds of reporters might only get a couple of lines of coverage. The exclusive pitch to one reporter at a major newspaper or magazine might yield a full-page article so the value is tremendous.

 

The bottom line is this. By no means would I ever suggest that small-business owners stop writing and issuing press releases to the media completely. However, sometimes there are better ways of getting the media's attention, and you can achieve masterful results simply by varying the means in which you make contact. Whether you're a small-business owner handling your own media relations or part of a small in-house team, your goals are always to build long-lasting relationships with the media and to maximize coverage opportunities. The ability to achieve these goals often can be found in the power of the "pitch" letter.

 

Carolyn Davenport-Moncel is president and founder of Mondavé Communications, a global marketing and communications firm based in Chicago and Paris, and a subsidiary of MotionTemps, LLC.
Contact her by
e-mail. .

 


Do you have a media relations question? Ask Carolyn! Your questions could be featured in an up-coming article. If you enjoy reading the Shoestring PR articles then sign up for our monthly articles via email or visit our Mondavé Communications blog - it's free!

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