An important part of online marketing, especially SEO, is what other websites say about your business. According to Google’s manual reviewer guidelines, a quality website is one owned by a respectable company. What makes a company respectable? What other people say about that company.
This is also important when it comes to link building. Links are a fundamental part of Google’s algorithm because they reflect one site citing another, as an authority. If you want links, you need other websites to talk about yours.
Doing this is difficult. Sure, you can pay to submit links to your site. You can even pay to distribute press releases. That might accomplish the task (it might feel like you’re accomplishing it, at least). Google is no fool. At best, these tactics won’t help you. At worst, you could be banned by Google. If you want to do this right you need to pitch people about your business. But how can you make a good pitch?
To help answer this question I interviewed Joanne Spataro. Joanne is a writer who has worked with my clients and me before. She has successfully pitched and written for several respectable periodicals including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Forbes and Vice. That’s not the only reason though. She has also received pitches while writing for periodicals.
Joanne has a lot to teach us about promoting our companies. Whether to earning links to our site for SEO or get the word out-there about our company we can learn from her experience.
David: Joanne, let’s say I have a business and I want to get coverage in other websites. How do I know if I’ve got something worth pitching? How do I find something about my business or about my company that’s worth pitching to other people?
Joanne: The first thing a company needs to look at is actually outside of themselves. Look for what people are reading about in general. People like to learn more about things that affect them every day. A company shouldn’t just focus on the features of their business. What people really want to hear about are benefits, “Okay, how does this benefit me? How does this benefit people in my life?” Add human elements into it and relate it to things people are dealing with on an everyday basis.
David: What are the elements that make a good pitch?
Joanne: Start with a story. Then go into, “Hey, this is what the piece is going to be about, this is why I want to write it, here are some of the other sources I’m going to have, and some other details.” But always start with a strong story. Editors get a lot of stuff in their inbox. Capture them with a story that’s in the moment or about a compelling person. That’s always going to catch people.
David: I’ve seen pitches you’ve written. I was surprised. I thought that you’d want to be brief and tease the editor to respond to you. Your pitches are very complete.
Joanne: My pitches are usually no longer than 350 words. I try to pack them with a lot. Especially with the higher-end publications, you want to tell a full story. You want the editor to see you have done your research. You also want to show them the other things you can do. That will be the tease: “I can I also interview this person or that person; I’m also going to look at these stats; etc.” You’re trying to keep it short but also show that you know what you’re talking about.
David: What I perceived was long might not have been long words-wise but long in terms of substance. There was a lot to your pitch. It wasn’t just, “Hey, I wanna write about this. Would you like me to write about this? Thanks, bye.” It was, “Here’s a story, here’s what I’d like to write, here are the sources I’d like to provide, here’s where I am already with it, would you like me to write this?”
Joanne: Yeah, exactly. I was working with someone on a pitch about how to talk to millennials about life insurance. Millennials are in constant conversation about their student loans. With that in mind, I turned the issue on its head: What if you could use your life insurance policy to pay down your student loans? That pitch was accepted and the full story will be published at a prominent national publication. Keep in mind, though: even if you write a good pitch, you still have to get it to the right person.
David: So how do you find the right person?
Joanne: Let’s say your topic is in the arts. You’ll want to pitch the editor in the arts and entertainment section. If you pitch it to sports, they’re not going to care. And, they may not help you get it to the right person because they’re engrossed in their own work, even if they do care!
If you find a name but don’t have their exact email address, find out the email convention for that media outlet. Put in that person’s name with that media’s configuration of the email and see if it goes through.
A lot of editors are on Twitter. You can find their email address there.
LinkedIn is actually good. It can be very helpful, especially if you have InMail, which a lot of editors do. If you have that, you can send them a message, you could see what they look at, and go from there.
Bottom line: it comes to a compelling pitch that reaches out to relevant people covering universal subjects in a fresh, interesting way. When it gets to the right person, you have to give them time to look at it before you move on to the next potentially right person. Follow up once and if you don’t hear back, move on to another potential Mr. or Ms. Right.