Get It Together: Don’t even think of picking up the phone until you have all of your ducks in a row. If you are representing a product-based company, this means having product samples in your office and ready to be sent upon request. Also make sure you’ve researched shipping options and that your client has approved sending product to the media. And be sure to have hi-res images of all products you are pitching before you pick up the phone. This means images that are 300 DPI (appropriate for print media) and hopefully set against a white background. Many editors will ask you to send products that their staff can shoot, but usually not if it’s going to be featured online. Beyond having the product and photos on hand, have all information gathered. You need to be ready with answers to journalists’ questions. You’ll lose their attention with too much back and forth between you, your client and them.
Do Your Research: Most national media is working roughly three to six months out. It’s imperative to stay on top of your industry, and be able to think ahead of what media are planning, so that your ideas are not only relevant, but new to the editors you call. For example, if your client is in the fashion or beauty product industry (like ours), you’ll want to watch the spring/summer/fall runway shows as they happen. You can guarantee that fashion media will be covering the trends and takeaways and you don’t want to pitch a pattern that was all the rage two seasons ago. So do your research, be ahead of the industry and become an expert.
Be Creative: Think wildly outside the box. Find the craziest way to get journalists’ attention and then go far beyond it. These writers and editors are inundated with emails and calls from people like you who are pitching lame products and not listening to what an editor actually wants. Recently, a makeup company grabbed the attention of top beauty editors by sending in a painted nude woman (see image). Ridiculous, yes – but it worked. Also, find out how the journalists you are contacting like to be communicated with. If you use a national database of journalists, like Cision, be sure to read the bios of the journalists you will be contacting. If the Cision bio says don’t call, by golly do not call (until you are acquainted). They asked for a reason.
Get Personal (but don’t act like you’re BFFs): We recommend following on both Twitter and Instagram the key writers/editors covering your industry. Twitter will help you understand how to better relate to them personally, while Instagram will give you ideas about what they like and what is working for other brands. Oftentimes editors will post pictures of gifts/shipments they received that meant a lot to them. Use this to guide your own creative efforts – it will help you understand your competition and think beyond a cold email.
Be Concise: With any publicity, it’s key for your emails to be short and to the point. With national media, it’s even more important. Stick to bullet points and brief sentences that are easy to read via mobile devices. In fact, most of our firm’s success has stemmed from designed images that quickly showed editors how our client’s products would look on a themed-product page. If you have images to show, include them in the body of the email. Do not attach files unless requested and do not include links in your email – this will likely send you straight to the spam abyss.
Follow Up: It’s safe to assume that your email is lost among hundreds of others. Which is why most editors appreciate you following up and reminding them of your inquiry. We recommend following up once via email and then by phone. It’s much easier to get your foot in the door when an editor has seen your email first or understands why you are calling. Also, practice what you’ll say in a voicemail. You’d be surprised at the number of voicemail systems that do not let you delete your original message!
Overnight Everything: In our experience, an editor will rarely explain due dates or deadlines when it comes to sending more information, images or something in the mail. Always assume they need it by end of day and if it comes to mailing, overnight it. They assume you know this, and now you do.
Check For Media Hits: Usually with larger publications, the process from making contact to getting a feature is a long one. It includes weeks of run-throughs, photo-shoots and more. It’s pretty safe to assume you’ve made the final cut when the publication sends you a credit form to fill out. (Do not tell your client it’s 100% until you see it for yourself.) This form ensures that the company name and website are spelled correctly, etc. Mark your calendar for the issue date and check each publication yourself. Some editors will send you a courtesy copy, but they are busy and won’t always get to it. You don’t want to miss your client’s big Oprah moment!
This should be just the inside information you need to visualize your client in GQ or Vogue. Now go forth, be quick, be daring and let us know when this helped you get your first big hit!