Why The Best Publicists Think Like an Editor11/09/2021
Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
Despite years of experience, my career path in public relations is actually quite unconventional. I went to college with the intention of becoming a special education teacher, earning my master’s degree in a 5-year program. The summer after junior year of undergrad, I saw Fall Out Boy live and went home telling my mom that I was going to drop out of the teaching program to do “something in music.” Needless to say, she was not thrilled. As a physical therapist herself, she, like many, had the mindset that you go to college, you pick a major that will result in a specific job, and you do that job until you can eventually retire.
With zero actual musical talent, I quickly learned that the initial key to success in music was internships. I looked for as much in-person experience as I could get — interning at booking agencies and indie and major labels, as well as writing album reviews. Eventually, I graduated with a degree in psychology, but it was the internships that ultimately led me to my role at media and marketing firm, Trendsetter. Everything I’ve learned has come from years of experience and years of doing things the wrong way first. Based on this experience, I’d like to share my advice for pitching stories, having learned some useful tips over the years.
Editors are pitched hundreds of news items and articles a day, possibly more. It is easy to get lost in a massive inbox. The best way to cut through the noise? Think like an editor.
First, your subject matter should be interesting and engaging. Make sure your article is something you’d click on yourself upon reading the headline. While in some cases, traditional press releases are necessary, most times, editors just want to read the good stuff without having to dig through an enormous email to try and find the newsworthy notes. Bullet points can go a long way in this department. Presenting your story with clear facts, stats and highlights, and with all necessary sources, makes everyone’s lives (and jobs) easier.
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Take a look at your email before sending it. Is the content advertorial or editorial? Why would the publication want to pick up the article if it only benefits your client and not its readers? The content should be mutually beneficial — it should provide your client the exposure they are looking for and provide interesting and valuable content for readers. One-sided pieces rarely get the green light from the editorial staff, but the advertising team might be happy to take a look.
Doing some research prior to emailing is important, if not the most important step. Make sure you’re sending relevant pitches to the correct editor. Sending a new music release to the editor that handles the TV column is not going to elicit a positive response. Best case, you’ll get a polite pass, and worst case, you’ll be asked to remove that writer from your list, which isn’t great for any future TV stories you might have. Establish a relationship by writing a friendly introduction, introducing yourself and your company, and asking what stories are best for that writer in particular, without asking for something in return. Relationships are everything.
Regardless of the above, you still might not get a response, which leads to the follow-up. There is an art to following up, a fine line between being persistent and annoying. I like to ride that line like a tightrope walker. You want to give editors enough time to get a chance to review, but at the same time, you don’t want to wait too long so that your story is no longer relevant. In my experience, following up, sometimes twice, is both valuable to the editor and to the client you are corresponding on behalf of. They might have genuinely missed your initial email and are happy to have the reminder. Odds are, they aren’t purposely or intentionally ignoring you. They are busy. You are busy. The best way to make this relationship work is to create a balance in which you are providing them news they want/care about and they are providing you with feedback or interest in talking further.
News happens every day and the news cycle moves quickly. Being able to move fast, capturing the attention of your audience and providing accurate information is paramount. Now go out there and get that coverage, even if it takes a follow-up or two.
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