Follow'Lettiquette' When Pitching the Media for Publicity

Unless you've got a brother-in-law in the business (or a sister-in-law, of course), one of the the best ways to get the attention of a reporter, producer, or editor is through a 'pitch letter.'

A pitch letter is like a news release because it's an appeal for attention or coverage. But where a news release is more likely to be distributed en masse, pitch letters are targeted - they go to a specific person with a specific idea.

Pitch letters tend to be more personal in nature, so they'll probably get more attention in the first few seconds. Nonetheless, a pitch letter MUST follow a certain format, a certain protocol, a certain etiquette (or 'lettequette, if you will) or it wind up in the same waste basket as a badly-written news release.

So how do you do it right?

First, remember that the overall impression - the way the pitch letter strikes the eye, the way it looks on first glance - can non-verbally signal the difference between treasure and trash to a busy reporter, producer or
assignment editor.

Small print and big. blocklike paragraphs shout 'You're going to have to search for the story here.' No one will take the time.

Here are some other basics, suggested by Joan Stewart in her outstanding Special Report #7, 'How to Write the Perfect Pitch Letter That Convinces an Editor to Write About You.'

* Use company letterhead or plain white paper

* Choose a simple font with type size of at least 10 points

* Single space your copy with margins of one inch on each

* Bold/italics are okay, but don't overdo them

* Use bullets to list key points

* Spell the contact's name correctly, and send it to the right address (you'd be amazed how often this one gets messed up).

* Snail mail your pitch letter. Email pitches are a whole separate subject and I'll cover those in a future ezine.

Follow up by phone and BE CONSCIOUS OF DEADLINES. You'll get
blown off in an instant if you call the 'pitchee' just before a story has to be completed or they're about to go on the air.

Finally - and this is more advice from Joan - understand that 'No' doesn't usually mean 'Never.' It just means 'Not now.' So don't be afraid to pitch the same contact again at another time.

Think of pitch 'lettiquette' in baseball terms. Follow the form above and you'll fire your pitch the right down the middle, making it attractive for the reporter to take a swing.

The likely result: a free-publicity home run for you and your business.