I get pitched ideas all the time. My inbox is flooded by emails from PR professionals asking me to carry guest blog posts, do book reviews, share their infographics, and interview the people they represent. The vast majority of all those pitches have one thing in common.
Honestly. They’re horrible. It’s some out-of-context, ponderous press release on a topic I may or may not care about. The request is opaque at best and nonexistent at worst. They’re ham-handed ways to get me to do their bidding. They’re lazy and are banking on the recipient having nothing better to do than jump all over their pitch and do a ton of work on it.
I’ll bet you send similar pitches. No? Really?
Have you ever emailed a sales prospect and sent them a big presentation or white paper on why your products are awesome?
Have you ever written a senior executive trying to get time on their calendar to share your awesome idea and get their support?
Were you successful in these efforts? If so, you’re either lucky or good (or some combination of the two). If the answer is “no” it’s probably because your pitch sucked.
Here’s the secret to fixing it:
Remember: It’s not about you.
It’s that simple. The pitch isn’t about you, your idea, your product, your service, or your press release. It’s about the recipient. Put yourself in their shoes. Ask what they would like to receive. Ask what their pressures and challenges are.
I’ll be selfish and use myself as an example. If you were going to pitch me an idea for a guest blog post, a book review, or an interview, there’s a right (and wrong) way to do it.
Key 1: Target Appropriately
I have to laugh at how poorly targeted some of the pitches I receive are. “Hey Mike, we bet your readers would love to hear about our new stretch mark concealer cream! It’s made from Bavarian goat udders and Pakistani wild boar nostrils! We’ll send you a sample and you can write a blog post about how awesome it is.” Far fetched? Not as far as you’d think. I get the most horribly targeted pitches that if the pitcher took a nanosecond to research my site they would see how far off they are.
The key for you? Make sure your target is a good candidate for what you’re pitching. If they’re not, you’ll get ignored.
Key 2: Tell Them What You Want and Why You Want it From Them
For about 80% of the pitches I receive, I have no idea what the person is asking for. When they send me a random press release with no direction or requested action, I’m not going to invest the time in coming up with ideas for what to do with it. I’ll delete it. I’m busy. Or worse, I may come up with an idea for how to use the information and that idea may be a terrible fit for what the pitcher wants from me.
Tell your recipient what you want and why they’re a great person to provide it. Something like “Mike, I’d like to write a guest post to be carried on your blog because your audience of business professionals with an interest in leadership will be very interested in my topic.” Okay! Now I know what you want from me and that your pitch will meet my audience’s needs.
Key 3: Make it Easy for Them
I’m busy as are all the people you’re pitching. When you send me “Hey Mike, can you read my 768 page novel and write a 2,000 word review and have it done in 2 weeks to coincide with my book launch?” my immediate reply is “No.” Period. Too much work.
Make it easy for me to meet your request. Something like “Hey Mike, I’d like to publish a guest post on your blog. I’ll send you a perfectly formatted document you can neatly cut/paste into your blog. I’ll also send you a creative commons image you can use with the post as well as a short byline, headshot, and book cover. I know you want these things because I researched other guest posts you’ve carried and all of them seem to have that.” Okay! Awesome! I can do that.
This guidance doesn’t just apply to guest posts. If you want someone to interview you, that takes time. They have to think of questions, schedule time with you, type up their answers and post them. Ugh. Instead try “Hey Mike, I’d love to have you interview me and have the interview appear on your blog. I know you’re super-busy so, if you’re okay with it, I can provide you a list of questions to choose from. Tell me which ones you want me to answer and I’ll type up my responses and send you a perfectly formatted finished interview with your chosen questions and my replies. You can then just copy/paste it into your blog. Very little effort on your part.” Okay! Deal!
This applies to sales pitches and idea pitches too. Make it easy on the person. Don’t say “Hey Bill, I’d like to pitch you my idea so it would be great if you could come to my office 30 minutes away from yours so I can show you a demo.” Um, no. Instead try “Hey Bill, I know you’re busy. Let me know what time is best for me to come by your place. I’ll do it as early or as late as you need because I know you’re doing me a favor.”
The easier you make it for them to say yes, the more likely it is they will.
The Three Keys
So remember these keys: properly target, have a clear ask, and MAKE IT EASY for them to say yes. If you do those three things, your “yes” response ratio should rise dramatically. My co-author Victor Prince and I have been using these techniques to ask people for slots on their blogs to support our upcoming book launch for Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results. We know the method works. How? People are saying “yes.” Here are a couple of verbatim replies we’ve received to our requests:
On targeting: “I was going to say no because my focus is on the people in cubicles… and then you gave the perfect subject. Looking forward to seeing it.”
On making it easy: “I get pitched to do book launch stuff daily and you are the FIRST person who gets it. (And I say this as someone who writes and launches a book every year, too!). Indeed, I’d love content for my readers AND have very little time, so your up front offer to ghost write stuff is gold.”
Trust me. This method works.
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