Anyone who has worked in content marketing knows how important, and difficult, it is to get your content posted on third-party websites.
Getting published on another site—be it an industry blog or national publication—is a great way to build your brand, improve your own site’s domain authority, and drive traffic. It all starts, however, with learning how to write a pitch for an article.
Because pitches are just as much art as they are science, none of the web’s leading content marketing tools can do this job for you.
If you don’t create and send compelling pitches to the editors and owners of the sites you want to write for, you’ll struggle to meet your content marketing goals. But writing a good pitch for an article, blog post, or op-ed is easier said than done.
It’s easy to get discouraged when you don’t get responses to your pitches. So here’s the first step: Don’t give up.
Next, review the following nine tips and see if you can tweak your current formula until you start seeing better results. That means more responses, more placements, and thus more clout within your industry.
1. If you can, find an “in”
We already know pitching is tough. What makes it tougher? Pitching cold emails.
A cold email pitch is when you reach out to an editor or publisher without any prior contact and hope to catch their eye with an outstanding pitch. Cold pitching isn’t impossible, but it makes your job much, much harder when you don’t have a connection to the person you’re contacting. The average cold email response rate is about 1%.
Make a list of the companies, blogs, and outlets where you want to pitch. Now go through your connections, such as those you know on LinkedIn. Who do you know who could make an introduction? Can they connect you to someone more junior in the company, who can then point you in the right direction (or make another connection on your behalf)?
If you don’t have an “in,” don’t let it dissuade you. Collect as much information about your desired point of contact as possible—their name, their position, previous works they’ve written or published, what school they attended. You may be able to leverage this information in your pitch to create a connection—or at least a sense, on your contact’s part, that you’ve done your homework and aren’t just reaching out blindly.
2. Write compelling subject lines
Everyone dreads the email subject line. But the truth is that the success of your pitch depends heavily on how interesting and clickable your subject line is.
According to a study, 35% of email recipients choose to open an email based on the subject line alone. That means a poorly written subject line will almost immediately render your pitch useless, as many readers will send it directly to the trash (or worse, spam folder).
How can you write better subject lines? There are lots of good tips out there, but some of the best include:
- Keep it short: As with all writing, shorter is better. This is doubly true for email subject lines, since 77% of emails are opened on mobile, where the visible subject line is even shorter than on desktop.
- Be honest: Tell people what’s inside your email, and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Fooling someone into reading your pitch will likely make them mad, not glad.
- Personalize it: Here’s where your research about who you’re pitching comes in handy. Use the recipient’s name to grab their attention.
According to OptinMonster, some of the best and most clickable email subject lines convey FOMO (“[WEEKEND ONLY] Get this NOW before it’s gone…”), a sense of curiosity (“10 bizarre money habits making Millennials richer”), humor (“Licking your phone never tasted so good”), or an understanding of pain points (“Stop wasting time on mindless work”).
3. Introduce yourself meaningfully
The next two steps are often interchanged or swapped, and everyone has different feelings about whether to get right to the point or to introduce yourself first.
In my view, a pitch is more effective when you tell someone who you are and why you’re writing them. A pitch that immediately starts with some variation of “I was surfing the web and stumbled across your excellent blog,” feels insincere, and immediately strikes me with a two-part question: “Who are you and why should I care?”
An introduction right away takes care of that question. This is where you tell them who you are, what qualifies you to write on a particular subject, and what value you bring to the table. If you’re a business owner, or expert, or long-time marketer, you quickly appear more trustworthy than if you are mystery person who claims to like the outlet’s previous work.
4. Explain why you’re writing them
Here’s where you might take a moment to explain why this site in particular caught your eye as a place to pitch. Did you read something that resonated with you? Do you see an overlap in audiences?
Including specific details about the site—the topics they cover, recent hits they’ve published—helps establish that you know them and have an idea of what would work for them from a content perspective.
5. Illuminate the value of working with you
In many ways, pitching your content to a third-party site is a form of sales. It’s a transaction: You provide them quality content that draws readers, and they provide you a platform to build your brand.
You already know what getting published would mean for you. What does this editor, business owner, or publisher gain by taking the time to correspond with you, build your content within their CMS, and publish (and possibly promote) it?
Make your value clear: Explain your expertise in the topic at hand, and/or your willingness to share the published content with a wide social network. Don’t exaggerate—just show how publishing your work could benefit this editor and their site. This is where you would include links to previously published work to demonstrate how others have benefited from you work as well.
6. Flatter—or at least be kind
“Flattery will get you nowhere” is a cliche that has no place here. There’s nothing wrong with complimenting the person and/or outlet you’re pitching. At the very least, your base-level attitude should be “kind.”
Again, recognize that by pitching someone, you understand that you’re asking them to take time out of their day to correspond with you. Nobody owes you a response, and acting as though they’re going to miss out by not publishing you is a sure way to turn them off.
Include in your pitch one or two relevant or positive comments about the outlet in question (“I respect your coverage on [XYZ topic]” is a good start) and never push, badger, or otherwise make a comment that could be perceived as rude.
7. Send a well-timed and appropriate follow-up
The follow-up email is a constant source of consternation for writers and marketers everywhere. How do you send a follow-up that doesn’t come across as needy or annoying?
The first step is to give your email time. Following up within a day or two doesn’t give the editor a chance to potentially read your pitch, discuss the idea with their team, see where it fits into their editorial calendar, and formulate a response. If you don’t hear from them after a week, that’s when you send the follow-up.
In your subsequent email, use one line on saying this is your follow-up to your previous email, and another to remind them of what your first email said. You want to make it as easy as possible for an editor to respond right away, so give them a quick summary of your first email so they don’t have to scroll back or click into another thread to find your original pitch.
A couple of nudges is expected by editors—who may have been busy when you first wrote them, or forget to respond—but after that, it’s time to move on.
8. Use email tracking software
Tools like Followup, HubSpot Sales, and Yesware allow you to receive notifications whenever someone you’ve emailed opens your messages. For some, access to this information can be anxiety-inducing. Why isn’t this person responding, they opened my email yesterday?
But there are benefits to these tools. For one, if your email is never opened, you know that you need to find someone else to pitch to. If it is opened but no one responds, you might tweak your formula the next time you reach out to see if you get an answer.
Additionally, these tools come with follow up reminders, so you can receive a notification if it’s been a week without a response. That way, your correspondence doesn’t slip through the cracks in your workday.
9. Don’t rely too heavily on email marketing software
Some technology in this field is helpful. And email marketing software is practically required for some marketing tasks, such as sending out newsletters or retargeting efforts.
When it comes to sending pitch emails, however, relying on email marketing software to pump out hundreds of pitches for you isn’t recommended.
It’s difficult to send out a boilerplate email pitch that doesn’t sound boilerplate. Writing individual pitches is more time-consuming, but it allows you to include more personalized details that will better resonate with editors.
One area where email marketing platforms might be helpful is in comparing email subject lines. You can A/B test your subject lines with your chosen platform and see if there’s a marked difference in open rates for one or the other.
Otherwise, stick to writing your pitches on an as-needed basis.
If you don’t get a response from a pitch, don’t take it personally. There are myriad reasons why someone won’t respond to your email, and many of them don’t have anything to do with you. Rejection is a part of the process.
Learning how to write a pitch for an article, however, will help you reduce your rejections and start getting real placements. Just as with your articles themselves, pitch emails take practice before they approach anything close to perfect. So get practicing, with the above tips in mind, today.