ReadWriteWeb we get piles and piles of pitches for coverage from companies all day long and they almost always come in by email. You'll notice that only a tiny percentage of those pitches result in write-ups here. How can you increase your chances of getting written about here or on other tech blogs? In this post we'll discuss five ways that companies often try and fail to get our attention and one way that almost always works.Here at
That rarest of methods, maddeningly, is actually the best way by far. We hope that readers interested in getting written about will take these thoughts into consideration. We want to write about companies and projects, we really do. We'll start this discussion, though, with what doesn't work well for us.
Wrong: Email the wrong email address
Richard MacManus started this blog on April 20, 2003 - that means this weekend will be the site's 5th birthday! Richard has worked very hard to grow the blog to now include a staff of writers (hold your applause, please!) but he's worked so hard that you really ought not impose the extra work on him of forwarding your tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. That's where you should send email in the first place, if you're going to at all. Don't send general pitches to him, to me, to Josh or to Sarah. Send them to email@example.com. That's right, if you send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org then we'll all see it. We'll all appreciate you for it too, because all to often that's not how people do it, despite our many pleas.
We get a lot of email, though, and I know I'm usually scanning the inbox looking for direct, personal communication with subject lines like "here's the money I owe you" or "this is your Mother, why haven't you called all week?" We do try to at least scan all your pitch emails, but really - that's not enough.
Embargoed news should still come in three or four days in advance ideally - by email, to email@example.com, but you can communicate far more with us as described below.
Wrong: Phone Calls
Some of us get a lot of phone calls, especially from PR agents. Some of us (Richard) live in New Zealand and don't have to deal with that. I personally don't mind an occasional phone call if it's about something really interesting or from someone I know to have good taste in tips. Sarah hates the telephone and does not want you to call her on it. Josh says phone calls have been driving him "batty" - especially in this week leading up to the Web 2.0 Expo.
We get a fair amount of phone calls from people pitching products that do not fit our readers' interests or that just aren't that interesting. You think your news is interesting (or, more likely, your client does) but unless we consider it interesting ourselves - a phone call could really backfire on our disposition towards you and your client for future coverage.
Wrong: Twitter, Especially DM
Sending a Direct Message from Twitter just ends up being another email. I tell myself, "I'll look at that later." How about a public Tweet that says "I've got news about a new ad platform targeting seniors on mobile browsers! DM me if you want it under embargo." We'll jump on that, because that's the kind of thing we eat up over here.
If you're pitching people on Twitter, you'd better have a whole lot of other interesting things to say between pitches. At the same time, when I visit the Twitter page of someone who is working for an interesting company, much less representing them on Twitter, I get disappointed (personally) if there is nothing about their work being said.
For most of us here at RWW at least, Facebook is a place for personal communication if anything at all. For me, it's like the email inbox I never check. What could be worse than that? If we knew each other in college, then by all means let's communicate by Facebook. I did once ruthlessly and publicly make fun of a certain PR person for pitching me cold on Facebook and after the ensuing kerfluffle we've become buds and I read every pitch she sends.
Personal connections are the best PR (isn't that what PR agents are hired to provide, in part - well developed relationships with press?) and everybody knows that being Facebook friends doesn't mean the same thing as being real friends.
Can you imagine having PR people IM you about their clients' events (and non-events, all too often)? That's the kind of thing that full time tech bloggers have to deal with! (Have I mentioned that the seat of my jeans are threadbare too? Oh, the suffering! Lol.)
Different members of our team have different feelings about IM pitches but I'm the only one that will tolerate them much. If we develop a personal relationship and I tell you we can IM, then we can IM. As of right now, though, I'm going to stop taking IMs from PR and startup people I haven't said I wanted to communicate that way with or that I don't do so with already.
If you as a PR or startup person can make yourself available by IM to answer questions when we're writing, that's better than great - it's fantastic. IM pitches, unless they are from people we know and they consist of nothing more than "Hey, company offering RSS feeds to mobile devices for 'low-supply of pet food in the pantry' alerts, about to launch - do you want info?" That's fine.
A Great Way to Do It: By RSSOne of the first things we all do every morning here is open up our RSS readers. We've got a folder for feeds from companies we're tracking and we scan through every new entry there. Sometimes we do it twice. It's fun - a hell of a lot more fun that mucking through email pitches.
PR people, please send us the RSS feeds of your clients' blogs and news releases.
The information that comes through these feeds is obviously public and there's no embargo - but if we didn't see something interesting in an embargoed email then we'll see it in RSS. Likewise, many companies blog about things that they might not consider cause for a press release but that we definitely want to write about.
The full fire-hose of company news and updates for us to pick out what's interesting, someplace outside of our email inboxes, free of dreadful press release rhetoric (skip to the second paragraph where details usually are, then skip past any executive quotes and hope there are readable details somewhere) - that sounds like a dream come true. I know that's where I get most of the stories I write about, not from email pitches. Send both, but company feeds are likely to be looked at more closely.
Most PR companies have changing client rosters, though, and OPML files are static files that don't update themselves. Here's what could be the best-case solution.
Voce Communications' Justin Kistner sent me a great OPML file in response to my asking on Twitter why so few PR people have sent my their clients' feeds. Here's the file Justin put together and here's what it contains:
- The feed for Voce's company blog, Voce Nation
- A feed for press releases, which he said was empty right now but will deliver the goods when there are items available
- A combined feed of all the Voce peoples' messages on Twitter, built using the attractive service Tweetpeek - something I hadn't seen before. I'm going to delete this feed from my reader just because I already converse with two thousand people on Twitter and I don't need more of those messages in my RSS reader. Better safe than sorry, though - an OPML file can be like a menu for subscribers to select from.
- The highlight of the file is a feed from Yahoo Pipes that splices together the blogs of all of Voce's PR clients. It's something that Justin can edit behind the scenes and I'll never know the difference - I'll just get posts from the feeds of new clients as he ads their feeds to the master feed I've subscribed to. It's a great solution to the problem.
Hopefully he won't remove the feeds of companies that leave Voce, but maybe he should. That's his call, I probably won't notice the difference if I suddenly stop seeing one of hundreds of company feeds I'm subscribed to.
PR people, would you all please send us something like what Justin Kistner of Voce sent us? Please? The increased familiarity alone on our part with your clients would make it worth your time. If we're already reading your clients' blogs, we're also more likely to pay attention to your emails because we have some previous relationship with the companies you're reading about. If Yahoo Pipes is scary (it scared me for a long time, but now I can tell you it's easy) then check out these tutorials.
It's not that hard to do and our feed readers is where online journalists go to find new stories. Don't you want to meet us where we're at? It's also a great way to learn about the kinds of technologies that are in play - instead of just using old methods to pitch types of technology that you don't actually use or participate in.