Among the many responses I got, reader Carly M. helpfully asked:
“As someone who is always ‘just’ trying to get a story placed, this really hit home. My question is: how would you begin a pitch or follow-up email alternatively to make it come across as stronger and more important?”
So after two messages that emphasize what not do, I am now “completing the trilogy” on this topic with some specific tips on how to do this right.
1. For a cold pitch, the status quo is to start with something like this:
Just wanted to reach out, hoping you can take just a minute to see if there’s something that might interest you here.
Instead, prove your worth and get right to the point:
I know you cover workplace trends such as managing millennials. Here’s what one company has found after upgrading their IT to match digital natives’ expectations . . .
2. When following up after initial interest appears to wane, here’s a common example:
Sorry to bug you. Just wanted to check in and see if you might still be interested in this idea?
But you convey the same point with much more power when you simply write:
Checking in to see if this idea is still alive?
3. After a few follow-ups go by, you want to give yourself one last shot. So don’t water it down like this and hide behind someone else:
I know you get bombarded with pitches like these and I don’t mean to pester you. Just want to get a feel for your interest level on this one so I can let my [boss/client/expert] know if this might still happen.
Instead, you can still show empathy and acknowledge reality, while still being clear that you believe strongly in your story idea:
I know you are juggling so many stories constantly and can’t possibly pursue all the worthy opportunities you come across. Can you let me know if this is still on your radar, or should I move on and take it elsewhere?
If those specific examples help you, great.
But really, the principle is not in the granular semantics of the email. It’s about how you FEEL when you write it. If you feel like a reluctant pest who has nothing of value to offer, that’s usually how you’re going to come across. If you cover up that feeling by choosing more powerful words, that helps a little.
But the real change happens when you re-align the way you view the dynamic between you and the journalist. When you know you have something of value that will help her do her job, that sense of intention will jump off the screen and make you stand out.