Why do publishers pick some pitches over others? Basic psychology may play a bigger role than you think.
A bright red dress is more likely to catch your attention over a more neutral option. You’re more likely to take a sip from a drink if a person you’re sitting with drinks first (go ahead, watch this in action at lunch tomorrow). There are a myriad of conscious and subconscious stimuli that affect the decisions we make every day, and that applies to publishers and their pitch choices, too.
BuzzStream and Fractl uncovered several psychological theories that can give you an edge in influencer marketing. These four takeaways can get you inside publishers’ heads – and get your content into their publications.
When it comes to options, less is more.
Publishers are eager for opportunities to collaborate. In a publisher study, 70% of editors and writers said they’d rather be pitched opportunities to work with marketers on stories rather than receive finished assets. Providing choices in your pitch gives influencers more flexibility to craft the story they want to publish and can give your promotion efforts a significant psychological advantage. But don’t overdo it with options; research suggests that too many choices can be overwhelming and cause people to decide to pass on the opportunity altogether.
In a study on personal choice, researchers from Columbia and Stanford universities found that shoppers were 10 times more likely to make a purchase when given a limited, rather than an extensive, number of options among a similar range of products. Rather than send pitches that offer a laundry list of 50 tiny ways you could tweak your content, try these options:
- A choice between small standalone images, an infographic, or dynamic visualizations such as animated .gifs or videos.
- A pitch with your raw data and two or three suggestions for a story angle you can assist in developing.
- Do you have multiple campaigns in production? Include two or three that are relevant to the writer’s beat and ask which one interests the publisher most. (This is best saved for your syndication strategy rather than exclusives.)
Put your best foot forward.
The adage that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” is an important one to remember when you’re promoting content. Some verticals are so competitive that publishers receive upwards of 300 pitches a day, which results in lightning-quick impulse decisions on which to delete. If you don’t have a good, established relationship with the influencers at your target publications, it is vitally important that your first pitch be focused to showcase the quality of your content and its relevance to their beat.
In a review of literature on online communication and negotiation, researchers at Northwestern Law noted the distancing effect that email can have in persuasion. Your recipient’s inability to see, hear, or connect with you in the same time and place can make publishers reluctant to engage or share information with you. You must overcome the lack of body language and social cues by earning their trust on the basis of your publisher research and content quality.
One way to do this is to establish a relationship with the influencer before you send a pitch. Find the person on social media, read his or her previously published work, and comment thoughtfully or share relevant resources. By demonstrating that you are interested in the person’s work without asking for anything in return, he or she will be more likely to take an interest in your pitch when you have material that is relevant.
Prove them right.
Confirmation bias can be enormously helpful in content promotion. Researchers at New York University conducted a study which found that when presented with information that confirmed their own beliefs, study participants were more likely to agree with and positively review material. Use confirmatory bias to your advantage by pitching publishers with angles that confirm or are likely to support opinions they have published in the past.
One tactic to apply this theory is to track the influencers who have already published content related to your keyword. Pay attention to how they’ve covered similar material, then echo their tone or address a concern they voiced in their previous coverage. By helping them continue to affirm their position on the topic, you’ll give them one more reason to publish your content.
Take a lesson from your sales team or ad department.
If you consider publishers and influencers as your customers, then pitching content is very much like targeting for a sale. In this respect, your sales team or ad department can give you a quick lesson in AIDA and how to use this principle to earn a placement for your content.
AIDA is an acronym commonly used to describe the linear progression of persuasive techniques in sales. Here’s how we apply the method to content promotion:
Attention – Gain influencers’ attention by writing a perfect pitch subject line to show them your content is relevant to their beat.
Interest – Attract their interest by showing them how your content brings a new or unique angle to the topic. This could be new research, an insight on a trend, or a new image or visualization.
Desire – Trigger their desire for your content by highlighting its quality and your willingness to collaborate with them to create the assets and resources they need for a placement. Citing the social popularity of your content type and its potential to earn them increased pageviews may be helpful.
Action – End with a call-to-action encouraging them to run with your campaign. Offering an exclusive may add extra incentive to your CTA if your content is particularly high quality.
Understanding the psychology behind pitching practices can elevate your outreach efforts and earn more engagement from publishers. Improve your marketing to influencers, and you’ll see more placements and more results from your content.
Want to dive deeper into our industry research? Learn more at frac.tl/press.