Traditional marketing and advertising have long been overtaken by high-speed content, influencer and social media marketing.
The data backs this up: Content marketing drives 6 times more conversions than traditional marketing, according to CMI.
Part of this new paradigm is the mutually-beneficial relationship between brands and industry influencers, often journalists and publishing outlets.
One well-placed post on a respected channel can boost brand exposure and increase link equity. If you’re a digital marketing manager in charge of your brand’s marketing efforts, establishing key connections with journalists can lead to a higher Domain Authority for your website as well.
And a higher Domain Authority immediately puts you ahead of your competitors’ online presence.
Let’s dive into the nature of the brand-journalist partnership and how to refine your pitches.
How do brands benefit from journalist and influencer connections?
Tomoson, an influencer outreach SaaS, found that every $1 devoted to influencer marketing returns an average of $6.50.
That’s ROI, plain and simple.
Journalists and online influencers are always looking for the next big story: It’s part of the job.
To build out their respective pipelines of future projects, they rely on industry connections. As a brand, you, too, are in charge of managing your company’s editorial calendars and content schedules.
It’s almost like a perfect pairing.
Brands benefit from journalists, particularly ones who are very active on social media or are regularly featured in publications with hundreds of thousands or millions of subscribers.
Similarly, journalists benefit from brands, as they also need content to churn out for their own readers.
Putting social media and publications to work for you
Seventy-seven percent of millennials have purchased an item right after viewing something on Facebook, the Data and Marketing Association found.
That’s why getting a journalist to like, share or review your brand’s services can be huge commercially. Plus, more than 90 percent of journalists are on social, so there are plenty of opportunities out there across a growing list of mediums.
Consumers are less likely to trust sponsored posts or paid advertisements; but honest, native content that’s provided organically on social media (especially by those whom consumers respect) stands a better chance of influencing purchasing decisions.
Which brings us to a good point: journalist platforms propel your content and your brand into highly relevant publications, meaning you’re immediately much closer to your target audience.
Whether it’s a one-off post that’s featured in the Harvard Business Review or a syndicated series on a small-business blog, your content earns free exposure and, hopefully, quality backlinks to your site. Going back to Domain Authority, the more reputable backlinks you obtain, the more likely it is for ALL of your web content to rank higher in search.
This means you’re able to extend the value chain of one post (JUST ONE!) to the full inventory of your site collateral.
This dynamic is inherently different from a paid ad placement, which tends to have a shorter shelf life and is interpreted by readers through a very narrow prism: you’re typically pushing a product – you’re not actually trying to establish a relationship with anyone.
With that said, the only way to get your content in front of journalists and prospects is the pitch, the initial overture to do business with one another.
Here’s how to get good at it:
Making your pitch perfect (and authentic)
The number of emails we scrap each day is astounding.
Just think if you were legitimately famous or even mildly well-known in some circles. It would be an inbox nightmare.
A pitch to a journalist can be many things, but it should always be very concise and very clear in its motives. Beyond that, it must also stand out.
1) Be exclusive or proprietary
What do we mean by that?
If you have a breaking news story, journalists want to hear it.
If you have a new app that’s soon to launch, offer a journalist in your industry’s sphere the opportunity to feature it first.
If you have new research on an engaging topic that can’t be found anywhere else, pitch an exclusive offer to a journalist on that particular beat.
We all want to be the star of our own content, so play to this sentiment in your pitch.
2) Offer first-person incentives
You know those stories and videos along the lines of:
– Business Insider: “I tried an online concierge service that solves the most stressful part of traveling for only $25 a day”
– Vox Media: “The California fires were at my door. I had 20 minutes to pack. Here’s what I took.”
These are powerful first-person narratives that journalists love to produce. They’re human, primal stories that readers love to click on as well.
If your brand can provide the opportunity for a writer to position your company, product or image in this type of light (and do so honestly), your pitch immediately stands out.
It affords them more freedom in their profession.
3) Mention why you’re pitching them specifically
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how formulaic and salesy most email pitches are.
Tell a journalist that you’ve followed their work, you enjoyed a specific article or you agree (or even respectfully disagree) with an argument he or she has made.
By placing the conversation on them, you come across less self-interested and less pushy. No one wants to work with someone who’s interested in only promoting a corporate product or opinion, so you need to build those authentic connections first.
However, don’t flatter for the sake of flattery. Every word counts, so if the first two paragraphs of your email are devoted to praising a journalist, you’ve likely wasted his or her time.
Journalists will see right through thinly veiled ploys to use their podium for your benefit.
4) Stick to the right platform, campaign and beat
If a respected influencer primarily uses Twitter, don’t reach out to him or her through LinkedIn.
If someone your brand follows on social media has both a personal and business profile, choose which to converse with wisely. Pitching to the wrong one out of carelessness can send your proposal to the garbage bin.
Remaining platform-oriented is one component of effective outreach. You also need to be mindful of the journalist’s beat and whether he or she has upcoming focus areas planned out.
Many times, publishers identify themes (campaigns, if you will) for journalists to pursue. So if the next three months are dedicated to healthcare system critiques, your pitch on cloud-based education tools will likely miss the mark.
Journalists often put out submission requests ahead of time if they don’t have anything already confirmed. You can also follow a journalist’s employer(s) to get a better sense of hot topics and trends that are being covered.
Caitlin Kelly of the New York Times phrased it quite succinctly: “I need ideas, every single day. I do need pitches! But not random stuff.”
5) Use visuals, just not as email attachments
Marketing managers are humans. Journalists are humans.
So why not pitch like humans?
Based on several recent studies, here is some great data to consider:
– Presentations that contain visuals are 43 percent more persuasive.
– 90 percent of info transmitted to the brain is visual.
– In a way, a picture is worth 60,000 words.
– Human attention spans are now just eight seconds.
Lean into these facts when pitching. However, do not include media that needs to be downloaded, as email filters will likely automatically consider your pitches to be spam.
And no one wants to take up space on their computer with image files that may or may not be risky.
Embedding a small image directly into the email body (in addition to using text to provide context and build out your pitch) can set your emails apart. As noted, they can also convey so much more.
You can do the same with .gifs, animations and hyperlinks to web videos.
Getting to yes: keys to soliciting a positive response
An expertly-crafted pitch is a must, but you still need the actual “yes” coming from the recipient.
Try a few of these:
Don’t be overly aggressive
Following up on unanswered direct messages or the like is fine; just not over and over to the point of annoyance.
Remember, this is supposed to be a positive experience for both parties on a professional and personal level.
If your pitch is too vague, it may not warrant an immediate response. Or, if you conclude without confirming hard dates, it’s difficult for journalists to prioritize you.
Be flexible, but also create timelines for when you hope to hear a response, when collaboration may begin, when a launch date would be ideal and so forth.
You should be doing much of this organizational legwork yourself, not the journalist.
Reveal some crucial info upfront
Just because you’ve promise a great lead or groundbreaking research doesn’t mean everyone will take the bait.
At minimum, give one or two bullet points of data or additional context to prove just how valuable your brand is. Then, once you’ve got a positive response, you can leverage the rest of the information you have to further advance the discussion.
You’re not going to score big on every pitch.
The key is to empower your marketing team to use every social and distribution channel available to them to maximize the reach of your content.
Experiment with the tips above and let us know how you fare!
Michael O’Neill is a writer, editor and creative content specialist from Chicago. If he’s not reading, running or riding a bike, he’s writing about the latest SEO trends and digital marketing strategies.
Connect with him via LinkedIn.