“How To Get Press” Part 2: SMACK! Media Founder Elisette Carlson Discusses “How To Nail The Pitch” with Forbes

In the second installment of “How To Get Press,” SMACK! Media Founder Elisette (“Eli”) Carlson’s discusses “How To Nail The Pitch” with  Forbes’ contributor Jody Greene (Chic CEO).

Read the full article on Forbes here.

Eli Carlson

In How To Get Press: Part 1, we talked about having great relationships with the media and making yourself a resource to journalists. We’ve checked back in with Elisette Carlson (Eli), the Founder of SMACK! Media, a boutique Marketing and Public Relations agency focused on innovative and authentic brands in sports, health and fitness to get more! This time, we’re taking it a step further with specific tactics for how you can nail a PR pitch. Everyone has a story to tell. In order to get press, it’s important to understand the specific media targets you should be focused on and how to go about getting their attention. Beyond building and nurturing relationships with media, below are some essential guidelines for how to nail a PR pitch.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK:  Take some time to learn about the journalist you are targeting, his or her writing style and what they’ve covered in the past.  So many publicists and in-house marketing professionals simply Google the most recent article written by a journalist and it’s very obvious to the journalist that the publicist lacks a true understanding for that journalist’s niche and interest.  Leslie Goldman, a journalist, author and speaker who focuses on women’s health and women’s body image explained to us, “I always appreciate when a publicist has taken the time to craft a pitch according to the types of stories I cover. It does not have to start off, ‘I read your recent story in Magazine X on breast cancer and have a related idea for you.’ In fact, that sometimes turns me off because it makes me feel like they just went to my website, looked for a recent story and are using that as a point of entry. All it needs to be is intriguing, fresh, and make sense in the scope of what I cover.”

BE TARGETED AND CONCISE: It’s important to capture the attention of the journalist in the first 2 lines by making the pitch current to something timely or trending, without overstretching it. For example, one of Eli’s friends recently shared that she’d been pitched a workout DVD using Miley Cyrus’ twerking as a headline for a new way to get fit, despite the DVD having nothing to do with Miley. The editor of the fitness magazine was completely appalled and she immediately deleted the pitch. A good pitch demonstrates a clear understanding of the target audience, utilizes some bullets, a quote or a short list of why the story is important (such formatting will be easier on the eyes), is easy to understand and ultimately, makes an impression on the journalist.

Miley Cyrus

BE PERSONAL AND MEMORABLE: A memorable pitch is also one that is personal, albeit, still brief.  A “Hi, I thought you might be interested in this because” followed by an appealing pitch that is directly relevant to the journalist’s interest will go much further than a blanket pitch that was obviously sent as a part of a mass pitch. Being memorable includes ensuring good grammar, spelling the name of the journalist and outlet correctly (this happens more than you think and is a major turn off), offering an impactful image and a compelling story idea. Before you hit send, proofread again!

OFFER A COMPELLING ONLINE PRESENCE FOR THE BRAND: If a journalist is interested in your story or product, they will very likely visit the website to get more information. Make sure that your company or product makes an excellent first impression to back up a stellar pitch and include relevant links to make it easy.

Now…onto the no-no’s. We get these a lot and know from Eli’s input that these are very common blunders that you should avoid doing.

DON’T JUST SEND A PRESS RELEASE: The world of PR has changed over the last few years and according to many journalists, the “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” headline is dead.  Journalists do not take the time to read press releases, in particular a lengthy one. As common as a PR practice as this may seem, save the press releases for breaking news, the news wires and for when it’s specifically requested by a journalist.

DON’T FLUFF AND DON’T FORCE.  Journalists receive thousands of emails per day and they are not fans of the exaggeration and sugarcoating.  Matt Fitzgerald, a sports and nutrition author, journalist and coach explained to us, “I don’t react well to hyperbole. I’m turned off by pitches that over-praise a product because they seem to be telling me what I should think.” He advises, “Just describe the product and let me decide if it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.” Positioning a story is one thing, but the moment your pitch sounds forced or includes too many buzz words such as “revolutionary” or “world’s first,” you are likely to lose credibility with that journalist. Instead, take a compelling phrase or key points out of the press release and use those in conjunction with an explanation for why this particular announcement appeals to the specific journalist.

DON’T FOLLOW UP INCESSANTLY: It’s important to check in with journalists to confirm that they have everything they need, and judging off your initial communication with them, use reason and logic for the follow up.  Journalists tend to work on several stories at once and they’re not keen on receiving the “I wanted to see how that story was going,” type of email. On the other hand, Eli explains that so much of her work is follow up and finding that sweet spot for how and how often is key.   Remember that the journalist likely gets hundreds of pitches so make sure that you also send a reminder of what you sent previously. One to two weeks is a reasonable time for a story that is relevant to that journalist. However, if the story idea is a simple announcement or a new product launch, allow for more time. Be persistent but don’t pester. If you don’t get a response by the third try, it’s time to move on.


DON’T FORGET TO THANK THEM: It’s common courtesy and good manners. Don’t forget to thank the journalist as they will likely remember you for future press opportunities and be more responsive the next time around.

An interesting, timely and if possible, an exclusive pitch to a journalist that is appealing to his or her readers will yield a much better chance of securing press coverage. And if the pitch didn’t work out for that particular reporter, you will at least have established a relationship with them for when another opportunity comes around.  As with any other business, the PR game is largely about relationships. Do you have other tactics that you’ve found useful? comment below.

Jody Greene is the CMO and co-owner of Chic CEO – a free resource for female entrepreneurs. You can follow her and Chic CEO on twitter at @ChicCEO.