3 Huge Failures from My PR Pitching to the Press That Bloggers Can Learn From

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“I have not failed. I’ve just found 1000 ways that won’t work.” – Albert Einstein

I really do love that quote. Because I TRULY believe in it.

A lot of what we talk about here on Slightly Savvy is working with brands as a blogger, pitching yourself, and building your blog into a true media brand.

And a lot of what I get to talk about is my success in the PR world – pitches I’ve landed, stories I wrote, deals I made, cool travels, etc.

What gets glossed over a lot is the times I’ve truly and utterly failed.

I’ve said this before, but a lot of my work in PR is pitching to the media.

SO, even though I talk to you guys a lot about pitching to brands as a blogger, I do a lot of pitching myself, too.

I know, say pitching one more time.

Anyway, I pitch stories to the press a lot – think me getting brands mentioned in Adweek, AdAge, TechCrunch, Forbes…that whole deal.

How I Was Awful At Pitching to the Press

Back at the very beginning of my PR career, post-college, I was pretty bad at pitching.

Looking back, I was doing SO many things wrong.

But I didn’t know that at the time…so here I am at my computer, a brand new 21-year-old post-grad, freaking out that NO ONE answers my pitches, no one wants to write the stories…aka I’m screwed.

Because I’m psycho, I decided I was going to ignore what Google and even my college PR classes told me about pitching and basically test test test my own ideas and strategies.

So that’s what I did.

I had huge legal pads and Excel sheets full of every single pitch I sent, the response, what time I sent it, what day I sent it, what I said, what links I linked out to, etc.

Finally, I taught myself how to pitch.

Enough that now I get basically a 100% response rate and a pretty high YES rate.

But I never would’ve learned any of that if I just sat in my chair, aimlessly searched Google for tips, and let the pressure + overwhelmingness get to me.

1. Not Being Personal

I’m embarrassed at how many mass emails I sent with 0 personalization, not caring about WHO I was sending it to, WHAT they actually wrote about, etc.

If I wanted press on Forbes, I would just email every single email address at Forbes I could find.

So, I was emailing business reporters, sports reporters, women’s health reporters, childcare health reporters…all to get press coverage on a startup.

Doesn’t make ANY sense.

What I Learned // 

  • Reporters and journalists have “beats” – it’s what they write about, what they cover, etc. For example, a Forbes writer will cover business startups, financial news, and Google news. And that’s their beat.
  • Don’t copy and paste a generic email 100 times – I was trying to save time by getting as many email pitches out there as I could…but I had a 0% response rate. Spend the extra hour creating 10 custom email pitches, and that extra hour you spent will pay out in spades.

How Bloggers Can Do Better // 

1. Brands also have “beats”

When pitching to brands as a blogger, brands have the same kind of beat or niche as a media reporter.

If you’re a financial planning blogger and you’re pitching to a skincare brand, what value would they get out of partnering with you?

  • If you’re a financial blogger reaching out to a skincare brand, figure out ahead of time what VALUE you can bring to them – yes, you’re probably off their beaten path of blogger niches they usually work with. So why are you reaching out? Figure out maybe what market you think the brand is missing or how THEY could benefit from working with a financial blogger.
  • Find brands that closely align with your own values/mission – if you can pitch to brands who believe in the same mission or have similar brand values, you’re going to connect a lot easier.

2. Brands are individuals, too

Don’t you hate getting completely unpersonalized, mass emails as a blogger?

The email doesn’t even say your name or your blog, and all the messaging is super generic…like “Love your content!”

Well, brands get TONS of those emails, too.

Even if you’re not emailing a direct person at a brand and you’re just emailing info@sundayriley.com, there’s still a human being behind that email address.

  • Go out of your way to say something specific about the brand.
    • Maybe you really loved one of their partnerships with another blogger.
      • “I saw your collaboration with The Skinny Confidential, and I love how she used your Martian toner in her morning routine.”
    • Maybe you read one of their blog posts and shared it.
      • “I really loved your blog post last week on hyaluronic acid – I even sent it to my mom!”

2. Being Too Self-Serving

No one gave an F that I needed media coverage.

And no one cares that you, as a blogger, are dying to work with a brand.

Reporters were looking at me like, “K….and what’s in it for me?”

And that’s how brands are going to look at you when your pitches are self-serving.

Like “Okay, idgaf that it’s your ultimate dream to partner with Sunday Riley. What does my brand get from working with you?”

What I Learned //

  • I was coming at it like, “Here’s what YOU can do for ME” – I would list allll the requests I had for the reporter. “I want this to be live on Thursday, mention this, say this, etc…” Basically, just sending them a huge list of demands
  • PR pros are a dime a dozen – I thought my pitches were soo great and I was the ONLY one pitching to this 1 person…until I found out on Twitter this reporter got roughly 100 pitches a day.
  • I expected them to 100% adhere to my schedule + what I needed from them – I didn’t want to hear THEIR thoughts on a story…I wanted them to write exactly

How Bloggers Can Do Better // 

1. Overdeliver on value

Instead of listing out what YOU need from the brand, list out what YOU can do for THEM.

  • Shift your language in your email pitch – Instead of “I’d like to share how I like your product to my readers,” say “I want my readers to be exposed to how awesome your brand and product is.”
  • When you do partner for a collaboration, exceed expectations – Under promise and over deliver. Send an extra tweet. Turn in the photos early. Do an Instagram story even though it’s not in your contract. Give people a little extra and they feel like working with you was beyond amazing.

2. Be flexible in your content, scheduling, etc.

Being completely rigid to your content calendar, your idea, even your pricing is not ideal for building relationships as a blogger.

In the brand and PR world, things change and things change fast.

  • You wanted the sponsored post to be live November 1st but November 5th works better for the brand? Switch it up.
  • Flexibility is always a bonus to brands – you don’t need to compromise your values, misson, or foundational things like that. But being easy going to work with, flexibile if something changes or goes wrong is nothing but an added bonus to a brand.

3. Thinking their world revolved around my schedule

When I pitched to the press, I was surprised when they couldn’t write my story in 24 hours because of an industry event, their editorial cal, etc.

I made tons of errors think that media reporters were just waiting at their inbox to receive my pitch.

When in reality, they’re covering TONS of stories in a given day.

What I Learned // 

    • Industry events are a big deal – when there’s major events in the industry coming up, reporters will be covering that nonstop. Think like Apple product launch in September – if you’re pitching to a technology reporter, chances are the days leading up to and the days after the #AppleEvent are REALLY busy for them
  • Think about the industry’s workflow – different industries have different busy + slow months. For fashion, December might be a really slow month. But August is the month before Fashion Week, so they’re probably really busy. And maybe the opposite is true for baby products + motherhood brands.

How Bloggers Can Do Better // 

1. Stay ahead of the seasons

If you want to pitch for fall, start in late July. If you want to pitch for the holidays, start in late September/early October.

Being the early pitcher is WAY better than being the blogger sliding into a brand’s DMs 2 days before Black Friday pitching themselves for a Thanksgiving campaign.

You can actually learn more on pitching strategies in the free 5 Day Mini Camp on Breaking Down the Myths of Pitching to Brands –> here

2. Pay attention to the world around you

Don’t be tone deaf.

When Hurricane Maria hit Peutro Rico, don’t turn around and pitch yourself to luxury hotels in Puerto Rico.

  • Be sensitive + appropriate – if you see a brand you’re pitching to is based in Florida, write your intro paragraph of your pitch email asking how they dealt with Hurricane Irma. A little sensitivity goes a long way.
  • It pays to research – the recent hurricane in Florida is a really good example of customizing your pitches. I got several pitches when I literally had 0 power, my roof was leaking, we were eating canned food, and wondering if our house was going to get seriously damaged. It was really frustrating to read pitches where people wrote, “I bet the weather is beautiful in Florida!”

Wrap Up 

So, I really hope you guys can learn from my mistakes, see how I failed, and shift those strategies in your pitching game to brands.

If you loved this post, you’ll love Summer Camp even MORE.

If you’re a serious blogger looking to make serious $$ from working with brands, this is for you.

One blogger used the information in Summer Camp to nail down $1200 in brand collaborations in less than a week AND she upped her normal pricing.

Summer Camp is built to teach you exactly what brands are looking for in influencers, how to email pitch to brands, how to structure your press kit, and SO much more.

Enroll in Camp –> here

That’s all for today guys, feel free to reach out to me if you ever have any questions. And let me know in the comments of some ways you have failed at pitching. But more importantly, what you have learned from it!

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