In a nutshell, special pitches are the golden ticket to getting your business some valuable earned media.
As a PR tactic used by startups looking to spread their names across prominent media outlets, special pitches are sent to journalists to offer them one, or multiple angles to a story or opinion about an industry trend or event.
These pitches can offer commentary on a topic from a startup team member via interviews or phone calls.
Why is this valuable?
Because it allows startups to provide unique insights, show their expertise and establish themselves as thought leaders within their industry.
Alternatively, special pitches can offer the publication a guest article pre-written by a representative of the startup — usually a CEO or leader — which is great if they’re looking to get their byline published (and a valuable backlink to their site).
Special pitches can also push for members of the startup team to take up guest spots on podcasts or speaking opportunities at conferences. Both are ways of improving clients’ social proof.
What’s special about them?
Publicize Senior Account Executive, Sean Stapleton, enjoys the scope and creative freedom that writing special pitches affords him.
The ability to offer a few different angles or spins to a topic within a special pitch pushes him to think outside of the box, he says.
The flexibility of inviting the publication to choose which angle they would like to pick up on has also translated into success for Stapleton and his clients, he explains, highlighting one story in particular.
“I sent a special pitch to Coindesk on behalf of one client … discussing the nature of digital identity,” he recalled.
“By the time the scheduled interview came around, COVID-19 had begun to spread, and digital identity was gaining traction in the media. The scope afforded by the pitch meant that the reporter was confident he could steer the conversation to the more topical developments, and we got a great article from it.”
How to write an article pitch in 5 steps
- Start off by suggesting a title for the article in the subject line of the email. This could save a journalist a lot of time if they eventually decide to pursue writing the article.
- Next, comes the foolproof Who, What, When, Where and Why article pitch template. Let’s break this down.
- The first part of your pitch should address the What. What exactly is your story going to be about? What original angle(s) can you suggest to approach the topic?
In this introduction, make sure to include the Who and the Where. Who are the main voices that will be involved in the article? And where will this story take place?
- It is then important to address the Why. Why is your story important now? Is there a news hook or events currently taking place that you could link it to? Contributing something new to current, topical discussions is often a deciding factor for journalists assessing pitches.
- Finally, finish by explaining what you can offer the journalist in this story. This might be unique insight, thought leadership, an exclusive interview, or even an embargoed report. Show the journalist why they should publish your story over anyone else’s!
How successful are special pitches?
For Senior Account Executive Stapleton, special pitches are among the most successful PR tactics.
Knowing they are likely to get results for his clients motivates him, he says, which in turn fills him with confidence.
Special pitches not only bring about exposure to other media outlets, but can help boost your website’s SEO. A backlink, either in the byline or embedded within the body of a guest article, gives your website a vote of confidence from that media outlet it has been published on, and tells Google that the media outlet regards you as a trustworthy source.
A successful special pitch to appear in a top-tier publication improves your brand reputation in the eyes of readers and Google, and can contribute to ranking higher on Google searches.
When it comes to picking which media outlets to pitch to, choose wisely. It’s very important that the article you’re proposing would fit well on the publication.
It’s also paramount that you know what sorts of things the outlet is publishing at the time.
This can be easily solved using media monitoring, which can be done simply by visiting each media outlet individually, using social networks such as Twitter to keep up to date with articles the outlet is sharing, or using tools such as Google Alerts.
Media monitoring also involves keeping tabs on what journalists from each specific media outlet are writing about and interested in. Journalists often change beats or move around in their work, so bear this in mind.
And, most importantly, remember not to pitch an article to a publication that has already published material on the same topic!
Special pitches are by no means rocket science, but they are certainly a skill that can be fine tuned with practice.
Thankfully, the Who, What, When, Where and Why article pitch template is a reliable tool to always fall back on and then perfect.
And, once you are confident in how to structure your article pitches, it is only a matter of time before publications will begin to show interest and pick them up, scoring those all-important results for your clients.