It used to be that you paid a PR team a ton of money to get you featured in the press.
Now, with sites like HARO and SourceBottle, you can pitch the media directly and get published in Forbes, Huffington Post, the New York Times, Business Insider, even Oprah and it’ll only cost you time.
I’m going to show you how.
I’ve spent years building my media pitching strategy.
I’ve heard “no” many times, but I’ve also received that all-important “yes” email. And with over 100 press mentions, I know what it takes to become the news.
Here’s the kicker, once you’re known, journalists start approaching you to write contributor pieces. Free press is a great way to build your authority, scale your customer base and get more media coverage. So let’s get started.
What is a media pitch?
A media pitch is a concise, personalized message to an editor or journalist at a magazine, newspaper, blog, podcast, radio, or television station. It’s designed to entice the reporter or editor to contact you and learn more about your small business or brand.
It can be sent via email; through direct messages on social media networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; or you can call the journalist. You can also respond directly to a media pitch on sites like HARO, JustReachOut, and SourceBottle, to name a few.
Are media pitches the same as press releases?
No. A media pitch differs from a press release in its format and objective.
Think of your pitch as a snippet. The purpose of a media pitch is to spark interest in a reporter, enough that they want to know more and are prepared to contact you to get the full story.
So your pitch needs to deliver value and be relevant. An example of a great media pitch is to lead with data. Journalists are always on the lookout for compelling data trends.
You can also lead with personal stories and insights you gained. A few years ago a couple got a ton of media coverage by opening multiple credit cards and using them to get enough air miles to travel around the world for free.
Press releases, on the other hand, tell the whole story. They don’t necessarily require a follow-up interview and can be published as-is. For example, your press release will include who, what, where, when, why, and how. It’s the full message.
5 reasons to get on the media train and pitch your story
If you’re wondering why pitch the media, I have five excellent reasons.
1. Social proof
Imagine being able to say, I got featured in Forbes Magazine, Marie Claire, The Wall Street Journal, or Oprah. That would be huge.
Press mentions instantly elevate your credibility to a potential lead. Because if Forbes trust you as an authority, a potential customer is more likely to trust you.
It also shortcuts the time it takes them to decide to buy.
70% of customers read up to 6 reviews before buying product. They might speak to a salesperson, or sign up for your newsletter. The considering phase can take weeks. But not when you have some of the most influential publications vouching for you. Then it can take minutes.
Plus, you can then the media you’ve been interviewed by on the homepage of your website just like Susie Moore.
If you struggle with confidence, you’re going to trust Susie to help you, because Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, the Today show all do. So media is crucial for elevating your social status.
2. Increase traffic to your website
Every published article typically includes a shirttail (this is your author bio) at the end of the article.
If the journalist just featured a quote from you, they’ll include a backlink.
Curious readers can follow that link to your website to learn more about you which can lead to email sign-ups and product purchases. Money in your account.
These publications will also share your article on their social channels, and they might even syndicate the article to other publications.
You’re getting in front of a whole new audience and it’s cost you absolutely nothing. So you could spend thousands of dollars on paid advertising, or you could take a few hours to write a really great article that brings in consistent traffic every month.
I’ll give you an example. I wrote an article a couple of years ago for Forbes on the importance of business systems.
It’s the #1 article for the keyword business systems. I also hold the #4 position. So I’m getting traffic from two sources.
So press mentions can lead to long-term traffic gains.
This is a term SEO experts love to throw around. A backlink is a hyperlink from one site to another.
But not all backlinks are created equally. A backlink from a site with a high domain authority (your well-known media publications) is worth far more than a link from a low domain authority (a blogger).
Links from credible media sources boost your authority and domain ranking. This means Google and other search engines are more likely to rank new content you publish faster.
My article on What is direct response marketing has over 330 inbound links (backlinks). That’s 330 chances of being found by leads looking to grow with marketing.
4. Scale your business
I started my media journey back in July of 2018. For the next year, I did at least four podcasts a month, wrote contributor pieces in Business.com, Thrive Global, Lifehack, Forbes Magazine. I spoke at industry events, shared my book with Facebook Groups, and you know what, I doubled traffic to my website.
When I started my PR journey, I had one full time team member and two part-time employees. By 2020 my team had grown to five full-time members.
More media coverage gets you in-front of new audiences. High-value leads that might never have heard of you. Suddenly, my email list was getting 900 new leads every month.
Today, I typically get 1800 new email subscribers each month. I have a team of 12 employees, over 30 coaching clients, a course, certification program, and great JV partners.
I fully credit my press mentions for building my authority and helping to scale my business to an 8-figure coaching consultancy. So if you want to grow your brand, invest in media opportunities.
5. More press opportunities & event invitations
Getting featured in the press can lead to more media opportunities and invitations to present at events like a Ted Talk.
As an unknown CNN won’t invite you to share your opinion on a matter, even if you’re an expert. But, if you’ve been featured in multiple well-known and respected publications, that call is certainly possible.
You can also charge to give a talk at an industry event. Imagine making $5,000 for talking to an audience, and your travel expenses were covered by the event. It doesn’t have to be a dream.
I’ve spoken at SuperFastBusinessLive twice, and FORO-Go 3 in Mexico. I’ve also been featured in over 100 podcasts and media publications.
So it’s much easier to be invited as a guest contributor or speaker once you’ve built a name for yourself in the media.
P.S. can you spot me? I’m giving a talk to over 2000 business owners in Mexico. That could be you.
Responding to press opportunities vs Cold pitching
What I love most about responding to media requests is you don’t have to build a relationship with the journalist.
All you need is a pitch with a great hook.
The journalist already has an angle for their article. They’re looking for a source to provide a new idea, data, or story to bolster their news piece.
Here are a few sites you can use to respond to media requests:
- JustReachOut – https://justreachout.io (strong US focus)
- Packages are tiered to cater to your needs – choose between Simple Outreach, Advanced Outreach, or Guided Outreach.
- Includes one-on-one guidance from former journalists on how to respond, which publications to target, reviewing content, and much more.
- ResponseSource – https://www.responsesource.com (strong UK focus)
- Cost – varies depending on which category you’d like to monitor.
- Includes direct contact details of the journalist, the size of the publication, and the value of the article.
For cold pitching, it’s your job to come up with a newsworthy idea or angle for a story. It needs to be relevant to the publication’s audience, and you have to sell it to the news team.
It’s a lot more time-intensive than media pitching because you need to…
- research the journalist’s written work
- build a relationship
- write a compelling pitch
- have your news article ready to send if the editor agrees to review it.
Pro tip: Ask an existing contributor or someone who has a relationship with that news outlet to introduce you. This gives you the best chance of getting your email opened, read, and your story published.
How to write a media pitch in 7 steps
A successful media pitch includes 7 key elements. These are vital if you want to get your story featured.
1. Make your subject line count.
Just like in email marketing, subject lines are the heartbeat of your media pitch. Get it wrong and the journalist won’t open your email. Journalists are masters at crafting eye-catching headlines, so make your subject line stand out.
Sites like Sharethrough Headline Optimizer help you to fine-tune your subject line.
2. Establish Credibility.
- Are you famous?
- Have you written a best-selling book or pioneered some social movement?
- Have you built a multimillion-dollar company in a year?
- Are you a contributor to other media outlets (example, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Financial Times)?
Your previous work is vital to establishing you as an authority, so mention it early in your media pitch.
3. State your lead.
A lead is the story or idea. It’s the juicy bit of information that gets journalists interested. It can be a news peg or a time peg. So a news peg focuses on a trending topic, whereas a time peg focuses on an upcoming event or date.
Was your brand picked up by a celebrity and featured on their Instagram account? Has your company created a viral moment?
4. Include a call-to-action.
What do you want the journalist to do next?
- Arrange an interview (example, on their podcast)
- Write a product review
- Mention your brand or company
- Use your quote in a story they’re writing
Be clear about the next steps. If you’ve enticed the editor with a few stats from a survey, offer to send the full report. They’ll know to contact you.
5. Add a soundbite quote.
Take a stance. Include a contrary opinion. Even if the reporter doesn’t feature your story, they may use your quote in a relevant article. Particularly when responding to HARO requests, you want to include a quote the publication can copy and paste into the articles they’re writing.
6. Keep it brief.
Media pitching requires precision. It’s not a time to waffle or show your talent for description. My tip is to be clear and concise but also demonstrate your value proposition. The best pitches create impact quickly. Using data is a great way to do this. Also consider taking a stand, sharing an opposing view, whatever.
Here’s an example of a brief pitch.
7. Sign off by recapping important details.
Before signing off, you want to recap whom the pitch is for, their title, company URL, and include a headshot if possible.
- Founder of
- Website URL
- Headshot – Link to a shared Google Drive
- Social media links (bonus)
And don’t forget to thank the journalist for their time.
Steal my 8-step process to effectively pitch the media
To stand out, you need to create interest and deliver value. Follow these top tips for pitching success.
1. Research the media outlet.
When pitching media outlets, you want to follow their pitching guidelines. Most online publications will tell you if you must submit your media pitch to the editorial team or if you can email pitches directly to a journalist.
So in the research phase, you want to search for the following.
- Who are the media giants in your industry?
- Who are the journalists that cover your industry? Which reporters are most likely to pick up your story and run with it?
- What topics interest them and their audience? Do they like feel-good stories or hard-hitting ones?
- Can you email your pitch directly to the journalist, or do you need to send it to a generic email address? For example, you can search for the media’s contact details on sites like Hunter.
You also want to show you’ve done your research. For example, if you’re pitching to be on a podcast, make sure you’ve listened to a few of the episodes.
2. Include the journalist's name in your subject line.
Hubspot’s Not Another State of Marketing Report found that emails with the reader’s first name in the subject line had a higher clickthrough rate than those that don’t.
Remember, editors and journalists may receive hundreds of pitches each day, so personalizing the subject line gives you a leg up.
3. Be clear on your intentions.
Do you want to pitch a news story, or is your goal to become a regular contributor? Your media pitch needs to convey your point clearly. So be direct but professional.
Here’s an example.
4. Build a relationship.
Journalists who know you and like you are more open to running your story. Think about your inbox. You’re more likely to open an email from someone you know, so it’s vital to stay in touch with a journalist long after they’ve accepted your pitch.
Whether this means following their social account and liking or commenting on their posts, or emailing them to say you enjoyed an article they wrote, keep in touch.
5. Be first to respond to press opportunities.
Most journalist requests are time-sensitive. For the best chance of success, respond within 15 to 30 minutes of a HARO post going live. If you’re cold pitching and the journalist likes your idea, you need to send through a completed article within 48 hours. Take too long, and they’ll have forgotten about your story and will have moved on.
6. Give them a compelling reason to choose you.
Do you have a substantial email database? Maybe you have a podcast that gets a ton of views or a social media page with tens of thousands of engaged followers?
Offering to share the published article or interview with your connections can give your media pitch the edge over someone who maybe doesn’t have a large target audience to promote it. So don’t be afraid to persuade. I like to include this as a P.S., but you can add it above your contact details.
7. Format your pitch.
How you lay out your pitch can influence whether the journalist reads it or closes the email before looking at it.
Make the email as easy to read as possible. Approach it like you would a blog article (learn how to write a blog post for beginners here). Format your response to include:
- all caps
- bold text
- upweighted fonts
- bullet points
8. Follow up.
Journalists are incredibly busy, and they receive thousands of pitches each week. You want to follow up on your pitch two or three days after emailing it. But don’t make your subject line Re: (Original pitch subject line).
Avoid these 6 common mistakes when pitching the media via HARO or independently
1. Responding to media pitches where you don't meet the basic requirements
Read the requirements before doing anything. What is the journalist looking for? In the below example, they specifically say don’t pitch if you’re not a certified career coach or career expert.
You’re just wasting your time and the journalists if you don’t meet those requirements.
Also, if they ask for 150 words on the benefits of email marketing, don’t overshoot and send them a mini-essay totalling 400 words. They won’t even read it.
Plus, you’ll get a black mark in their book. So any future pitches will just go into their trash folder.
2. Not checking the pitch deadline
When is the pitch due? If you’re using HARO they’ll always state when the pitch is needed by.
If that’s 11PM EST on the 16th March, emailing at 11PM PST is too late.
I’ve done this before, where I haven’t checked the deadline and spent time crafting a really great response. After hitting send, HARO quickly let me know submissions are closed.
Now it’s not all doom and gloom. You can keep that pitch for future press opportunities, although there’s no guarantee when a similar request will come available.
Lastly, can you make yourself available for an interview? If you’re not in the right timezone or prepared to get up in the wee hours of the morning, don’t pitch.
3. Pitching the wrong person or publication
Media outlets have an editorial enquiries or editorial guidelines section. Sometimes, this can be a brief sentence in the tertiary menu of the site or an entire page.
Here they’ll list whom to pitch your ideas to.
Do your homework before emailing your pitch or reaching out to a journalist on Twitter. If you send it to the wrong person, it’ll get ignored. Send it to too many, and you’ll get blacklisted.
For example, in Forbes editorial enquiries section, they list exactly how to get in touch with their journalists.
4. Having nothing new to share
Journalists are looking for sources with fresh ideas or a new take on a particular subject. They don’t want generic responses they’ve seen a couple hundred times.
They want to break the news. So don’t pitch if you don’t have something compelling to share.
Remember, compelling could be a new take on an old idea. For example, the media gives a lot of attention to entrepreneurs who make their first million in their twenties.
But Laura Belgray wrote an article about how she only made her first million in her 50s and why it’s better. It speaks to millions of readers who are in their mid-40s or late 30s trying to start a viable business.
So using your personal story and giving a new spin on an old idea can be newsworthy.
5. Forgetting to proofread your pitch
There is no excuse for spelling and grammar mistakes. With editorial assistant apps like Grammarly or the Hemingways App, you don’t need to hire an editor to proofread your writing.
Mistakes make you look unprofessional and lazy. Also be ware of American spelling vs British English.
As an Aussie, I’m constantly switching between the two. So make sure you spellcheck before hitting send on your pitch.
6. Not formatting your pitch
Make your pitch easy to read. If you send a wall of text, they’re not going to look at it. So use short sentences. Introduce bullet points, italics, numbers, bold, uppercase text, quotes, etc.
Use this framework:
Short, brief introduction. Mention why you’d be a great expert.
Restate the journalist questions example – What unique and inviting ways have you
remade your office to make it more appealing to employees?
Suggest three or four ideas as a list or bullet points.
Contact details – email, business url, point of contact
P.S. Give them a reason to choose you. For example, if you have a large social media following, or an engaged email list, mention you’ll share the article to your audience if they choose you.
Media pitch examples for HARO, Podcasts, and Cold Pitching
Media pitching doesn’t need to be scary or the job of PR professionals. I’ve used these templates to get featured in over 60 media publications and about the same number of podcasts.
Cold pitch example template
Podcast example template
Here’s an example of a podcast pitch which resulted in a response.
Warm pitch (responding to HARO) template
Take a look at this example. It highlights the journalist’s questions in bold and includes short, compelling answers.
How to get featured in Forbes?
Getting featured in Forbes isn’t easy. I could have waited years and never been approached to write for the publication.
I joined Forbes Coaches Council, a paid program. It was worth it to be able to say, I’m a Forbes published writer. I’ve had several publicity pieces published.
But much like HARO, their journalists are always looking for expert opinions. You can pitch one tip and have that published in a story they’re running. I’ve included an example below.
Some of these stories get featured on the home page, so if you’re a coach or consultant looking to elevate your brand, I’d definitely consider it.
Make your media pitches count.
Writing a media pitch doesn’t have to be hard, but it is a numbers game.
Businesses worldwide are trying to get coverage for their brand. Many use PR agencies who’ve spent years writing media pitches and building relationships with journalists.
Follow the tips listed above, and you’ll give your stories a fighting chance.
Remember, media pitches and press releases are not the same, but both should be a part of your PR strategy. If you want to learn how to write a press release, check out the link.