Insights from 500 publishers about pitching

Insights from 500 publishers about pitching

You have content to share. Whether it’s to increase your guest blogging efforts, to gain a little publicity or to simply establish a larger network or reach, your success generally depends on your pitch. Because pitches determine what content is published and what is discarded, they are, in some regards, more important than the actual content you create.

However, to many writers, the pitching process is still a mystery. Because of this, they send out generic pitch emails and receive few, if any, responses. Pitching doesn’t have to be confusing or difficult.

In fact, to simplify the process, BuzzStream interviewed more than 500 editors, publishers and writers to find out what they’re looking for; think of it as a behind-the-scenes look at what helps land a pitch. Click over to view the full Slideshare deck.

As a writer who regularly pitches content, I found the results of this study to be helpful in a variety of areas. To make it more actionable, I’ve taken the ideas and results from the study’s researchers and have added some suggestions for maximizing your pitching efforts. Keep reading to learn more.

Motive vs. Value

Social networks and open information sources have made it easier than ever to connect with those you’d like to reach out to. This includes publishers to whom you’d like to pitch content.

Unfortunately, you’re not the only one with this idea. In fact, the study found that the majority of editors and publishers who receive pitches only write or publish one story per day, however, 44% receive at least 20 pitches per day; 8.4% receive over 100! Many of those surveyed reported that the majority of pitched content is no better than spam or advertising that’s meant to serve the needs of the individual doing the pitching, not the brand being pitched to.

What this means, in my opinion, is that there’s a huge opportunity for writers that are able to write valuable content, those with genuine motives. You can stand out from the hundreds of other pitches by creating and pitching content that is relevant to the readers of the blog that you’re pitching to. Share this information in your pitch and make it clear that what you have to share is more than a run of the mill advertisement. Outline what’s in it for them. Be enthusiastic. Be genuine.

Research and Connection Building Matters

The sheer number of pitches being sent on a daily basis means that relationships might also make a difference. In fact, the study seems to substantiate this idea – 64% of publishers and editors claim that having some form of established relationship with the person doing the pitching makes a difference.

To get started in this area, use social media to your advantage. Start following blogs, journalists and brands that you’d like to pitch to. Find out who the key decision makers are and start conversations. Retweet what they share, share their posts with your followers and demonstrate legitimate interest. From there, reach out, introduce yourself and get the conversation flowing. If a publisher recognizes your name, they’re more likely to pay attention to your pitch.

It Starts with the Subject

How many times have you actually taken the time to think through the subject line of an email, even an emailed pitch? Chances are, you stick with generic information hoping that the opening paragraph of your actual content will stand out.

However, when editors and publishers are receiving hundreds of pitches per day, the subject line could be more important than you may have thought. According to the study, 85% of those surveyed consider the subject to be critical for whether a pitch is even opened in the first place.

To make your subject line more effective:

  • Stick to 45-65 characters.

  • Avoid over the top sales-like language – “free,” “unbelievable,” “amazing.”

  • Stay clear of exclamation points.

  • It may pay to just get to the point: title of your piece [type of content].

Content and Structure

If your subject line is a success, hopefully you’ll have a chance to win some attention through your message. However, what works may be different from what you learned in school or in your early days of pitching. Long introductions that eventually get to the point are a thing of the past. In today’s fast-paced world of journalism, publishers want to know up front whether what you have is right for them or not.

Some tips on enhancing your structure include:

  • Keep it short – publishers prefer pitches that are 100-200 words or less.

  • Think about your formatting – today’s editors and publishers are looking for pieces that contain exclusive research and breaking news, not analytical opinion pieces or otherwise. Your content should be both interesting and actionable.

  • Learn about what the blog you’re pitching to normally posts. If they’ve never shared an infographic or interactive map, they probably don’t want to start now, even with an amazing pitch. Make sure your content fits their style.

  • Learn about how the blog you’re pitching creates content and pitch accordingly. Unlike the past where pre-written pieces and press releases reigned supreme, today’s bloggers and publishers prefer to collaborate on pitched ideas rather than to be handed stories that are “ready to go.” Be willing to adjust your methods.

A pitch is most likely what stands between your online PR strategy and actual success; don’t overlook its importance! The BuzzStream study gives an exclusive look at what happens on the other side of the computer screen and as such, provides critical information for improving your pitching process.

Take your pitch to the next level by implementing a few of the ideas gleaned from insights from 500 publishers referenced above. I know I will!

Adrienne Erin is an online PR specialist at WebpageFX who believes in experimentation and measurements when it comes to improving her pitch. She writes for SiteProNews, Search Engine People, Socialnomics, and many publications that don’t begin with the letter S. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter or visit Design Roast to get in touch or see more of her work.

Photo: Screenshot of BuzzStream's findings

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