A Pitching Lesson

A guest post by C.C. Chapman.

While Todd is away playing on the beach with his family, he asked me to write something to tide you over while he was away. Of course allowing me to step up on the PR-Squared Soapbox means that I’ve got to school some of you Public Relations “Professionals” out there who are driving me nuts!

If you don’t know me, my name is C.C. Chapman and I’m a Creative Director at Campfire and the Founder of Digital Dads. I also create a ton of content online including the podcasts Accident Hash, Managing the Gray, Media Hacks and Cast of Dads. I’m also an avid photographer, outdoors man and all around family guy.

Now, I’m not laying all of those out there for you to click on them and become my latest fan (although I won’t argue with that), but rather to illustrate that I’ve got a lot of passions and I share those very openly online. Because of this you can bet that I get pitched non stop from every angle.

I should also say that for the past four years, I’ve developed and executed numerous successful influencer outreach campaigns so I know what it is like on both sides of the pitch. I’m writing this post in the hopes of helping you do better at your job and make my inbox a little more relevant.

Here are a few things not to do:

  • Dear _______
    It doesn’t matter what it says after that. NO ONE but people pitching things start e-mail with something like that. If you want to make it personal then use my name and move on. Think about it. When was the last time you started an e-mail to anyone like that? For bonus points, put the wrong name in there or forget how to use mail merge and leave some variation of <first_name>.
  • 100% Form Letter
    I understand that we’ve all got boiler plate copy to use, but don’t make the entire e-mail one big piece of boiled crap. Take at least a the first introduction to show me that you are writing this to ME. You’d be amazed what 15 minutes on a bloggers site, Facebook profile or Twitter stream will do to allow you to get to know them a little bit better.
  • Send it more then once
    gMail is my main e-mail program and it does a great job of threading messages with the same subject line from the same people. If I see 3 new messages from the same person grouped together I don’t even open the e-mail since it is obvious a sloppy pitch.
  • Pretend the pitch isn’t a pitch
    Don’t you dare send me a note talking about “this amazing link I found online that I thought you’d like” acting as if you are nothing more then a reader and trying to show me something cool. Thankfully these types have become rare, but I had it happen just last week so I know some of you are still doing it.

I could probably rant forever on this topic, but I want this to be a learning experience for everyone, so let me give you a few tips that will improve your pitches and thus lead to more coverage for your clients.

  • Show that you’ve taken the time to at least get to know each person a little. This means after you’ve put together your target list that you go out to each of their sites and online profiles and let them know why you are reaching out to them. Did they blog about a competitor? Do they write about your industry on a regular basis? Whatever the reason, let them know.
  • Choose your words carefully. Try to avoid using things like Miss & Mrs. as some people don’t appreciate them. If you are reaching out to parents be sure to use that word. Too often these days I am getting pitched as a mom, but I’m a Dad. When in doubt go overly general.
  • Get to the point as soon as possible because if I don’t know you then I’m going to scan and decide what action to take very quickly. Whenever possible put a link to what you want me to look at, review or interact with as up front as possible.
  • Don’t be afraid to be overly direct in what you would like to get out of me, but always remain courteous. Consider saying something along the lines of “If you liked what you saw/heard/read please consider sharing this with your community.”
  • If you are going to send an item for review, go the extra mile and upfront say that you will expect the blogger to disclose this when they post their review. This shows that you and your client has a certain level of integrity and goes a long way. Personally I’m big fan of using Cmp.ly for my disclosures.

Each one of us fights the demons of staying on top of our inbox daily and when it comes down to choosing between a pitch from a stranger and a note from a friend, the pitch will always lose.

Take my advice to heart the next time you begin telling the world about your client and I guarantee you that more people will read it then before. I promise you that I will. Feel free to e-mail me the next time I’m a match for one of your pitches.

Posted on: February 19, 2010 at 9:00 am By Todd Defren
15 Responses to “A Pitching Lesson”


  • Excellent tips on the dos and don’ts of pitching, CC. Most of what you have mentioned can be used extremely effectively in affiliate recruitment, and I’m bookmarking this post now.

  • Even though I work in PR and pitching media is part of my daily life, a refresher on the practice is always welcome. After all, it’s called media relations for a reason, isn’t it? Aren’t we supposed to relate to the person receiving our pitches?

    Despite what some people (apparently) believe, bloggers, journalists, and other members of the traditional and online media are people too. When sending pitches, it’s common courtesy to be as honest and human as possible. Like you said, CC, when it comes to choosing between a stranger’s pitch and a friendly note, wouldn’t you rather read a friendly note?

    Tessa Carroll

  • Jamie Gorman says:

    In a meeting yesterday the question came up “what do you do with the stack of business cards collected at networking meetings?” We talked about approaching the obviously good leads with a personal note or phone call, but do you have a tactful and effective way to contact the rest of the folks to generate interest and possible follow-up?

  • John S says:

    Great tips. When people add a personal note to a pitch that references their interest in what the person is doing, it makes a huge difference. It’s similar to the advice given to job hunters – find out a little bit about the company and mention it during the interview. It makes people feel good when the salesperson takes time out to read about them.

  • C.C. Chapman says:

    I’m so proud of this article, that now instead of hitting the delete button as soon as a bad pitch arrives, I hit reply and paste in the link to this article.

    I wonder if ANY that I reply to will actually read it and reply back. Somehow I doubt it.

  • PJ Mullen says:

    Great list CC. Another one that grinds my gears is when they start the email off with a press release before actually getting to their message and then attach the press release and four other files including high resolution artwork to the email.

    If I had a dollar for every time I was pitched by a “mom-centric” brand I wouldn’t need to return to the workforce when my son is school aged.

  • Jim Mitchem says:

    Great advice. I always like to mention to my partners how I once pitched a no-hitter when I was 12 and that’s why I need to write our appeals now. ;)

  • Great list! I don’t think you are asking firms to create BFF relationships with the people they want to pitch, but just click a few links and read up a bit. Be a gracious host.

    On the other hand, being a gracious recipient of pitches is also called for. I have never EVER seen you take a crappy pitch, copy/paste it in a post, and publicly ‘out’ the firm. When I’ve received pitches that I need to vet a bit, I have a circle of professional friends that I can call and see what their experiences have been. Be professional on both sides. Companies will want to work with you again and again if you are.

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