Content comes in many forms, yet they all share a common denominator.
From online magazine features to videos to infographics, the content you develop is only going to have a significant effect if it’s placed on a reputable website. And to find success in that challenging plight, you’ll need to master the art of pitching.
We’ve recently discussed the different types of pitching methods for more news-oriented content—on-spec versus open-ended pitches.
Despite the vast variety of techniques, it’s easy to find advice columns about what to include in a pitch as a freelance writer, which is what successful content development teams create the foundation of their content outreach approach from. Instead, let’s talk about a handful of faux pas scenarios to avoid while pitching your content.
Pitching Without Research
Pitching an idea or on-spec story without researching the topic itself or the content the target site publishes is one of the most critical mistakes people can make while cold pitching editors or website managers.
You need to have an idea of how seamless the idea fits with the publication’s approach to content, and if your writing style fits with tone, style and voice. If you have an excellent story idea, be sure to investigate the website in question to see if it has similar—or the same—idea already published, and how frequently they talk about the given subject.
Let’s assume the content you’re creating for a publisher is piggybacking off a news story, such as the US Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado this August, and you’re writing about how to transition from cycling at a gym into mountain biking outside.
If the website discusses mountain biking, did they discuss the US Pro Cycling Challenge before? If so, what did they say about it? If not, why haven’t they covered the event? These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself before pitching.
Additionally, you need to prove to the editor within your pitch that you understand the chosen topic and you know the initial answers an editor may ask. One tip that’s useful to remember: pitch a story that expands on the knowledge you already have about a subject.
Failing to abide by these rules shows editors you don’t care about their publication or the story you’re pitching.
Relying on Templates
To get your content placed on a site, you need to stand out and prove why your idea is better than the other 20 pitches that editor received today. Part of that is how personal and unique your pitch is. If you’re using a template or the exact same pitch to each potential site, then your success ratio isn’t likely going to be very high.
Be sure your pitch isn’t identical from one publication or website to another; the template method is easy to spot and just as easy to dismiss. That’s not to say you can’t reuse certain parts of a pitch if you’re trying to get a single idea placed.
For example, if you’ve written a stellar anecdote about mountain biking races as a hook, then keep that. Just make sure everything else isn’t identical from publication to publication.
Believing Your Idea is the Only Important Thing
Initial pitches are a lot like job interviews. You have to have more to offer than just an idea because it’s entirely possible that another person will have the same idea or one that is similar enough to get accepted.
Who you are and how you present yourself is important, too. Are you behaving in a professional manner? Or are you too chummy in that introductory pitch? Holding yourself accountable to any standards of an in-person job will go a long way when pitching content.
Be sure to respond to emails promptly, with a professional but friendly attitude and be open to criticism.
Related Article: Help Me Help You: How to Best Deliver Constructive Criticism
Thinking Your Writing is All That Matters
Similar to the idea itself, your writing isn’t the only important aspect of the pitch. You need to remember that every publication or website you pitch your content to is another client—and they should be treated as such.
Having great content published with placed like The New York Times or Bloomberg will certainly help you along the way, but proving you can write won’t take you everywhere. Just like the clients you’re making content for, these publications have their business goals in mind, and you need to appeal to those.
How will the story you’re pitching help that site? Does it appeal to the readers, or will it increase their bottom line or customer retention? The quality of your writing matters but ultimately the decision will come down to business.