The 5 Most Important Questions to Ask Before Pitching a Publisher

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Success in link building and digital PR comes from personalization. 

When pitching a top publication, it’s important to remember that there’s a person on the other side of the screen. Otherwise, you run the risk of writing pitches that sound robotic and falling into the same bin as the other 200 pitches a writer receives: the trash.  

So, it’s important to stay vigilant. The research that goes into appealing to a journalist is meticulous, and you have to remember that each section of a pitch can be customized; in fact, it’s a crucial part of the outreach process. 

The key is finding the perfect fit: the ideal connection between a journalist and the content you’re pitching. This combination ultimately leads to coverage for our clients and a solid professional connection with a writer. 

In order to create those long-term connections and secure coverage, make sure to ask yourself the following questions.

Question #1: What am I pitching?

When pitching content, start by analyzing the information. Make sure your outreach strategy aligns with several potential publishers in different verticals. 

For example, say you’re pitching content about FDA recalls in cosmetics. It’s important to identify the umbrella of topics writers can relate to. In this case, you should identify writers that cover topics such as beauty, health, and wellness from a wide range of publications. 

Now that you’ve established a few verticals to target, you can research if the specific topic is trending or if it’s been widely covered in the news recently. 

If the topic seems to be trending, it’s important to understand how it’s being covered. Journalists get tired of overly used angles and story ideas that have been exhausted, so you need to keep angles unique. 

For example, say there’s a recent trending story about FDA recalls in skin care due to lead; ask yourself: How does my research fit in here? What did the writer not mention in their article? And could the writer potentially fit my research into their coverage?

Say your content is about FDA recalls in cosmetics and its negative reactions. Because the writer mentioned “skincare” specifically, you could pitch the writer a list of other products that might also be in danger of being recalled. 

In these examples, we connected to the journalist by pitching them a topic they were already writing about, improving our chances the writer will be interested in the research we’re promoting. Make sure to provide a fresh, new take on a topic if it’s already trending. 

Question #2: How does my content align with a publisher’s beat?

When continuing to structure outreach strategies, noting a publisher’s beat or (their specific coverage) can help with pitch personalization. Reading through writers’ older articles, bios, and personal websites can paint a full picture of what a writer covers.

To continue the example about FDA recalls on cosmetics, key terms that stick out from the umbrella of topics should include beauty, wellness, women’s interest, cosmetics, makeup, and recalls. 

A potentially interested writer’s bio might go as follows: I’m an editor at Elle magazine covering everything beauty and FDA tested. 

Next, ensure the writer frequently covers studies or third-party data. Keep an eye for headlines like “… [study]” or “new data reveals…” when reading past articles.

Another key step when scanning a journalist’s archives is to correctly identify their beat. While a writer may say they cover a certain beat, like technology, for example, you may notice some variation when digging into their past articles.

For example, a writer’s bio might go as follows: I’m a freelancer who covers tech and finance. 

The writer above has left their bio broad and might cover a wide range of other subtopics such as loans, bankruptcy, etc. This is why it’s important to read a writer’s past work. 

Note: Some writer’s beats can be overly specific. Be on the lookout for words like “the intersection” of two topics or when one vertical “meets” another.

A writer’s bio might go as follows: I’m a contributing writer for Shape that covers the intersection of beauty and wellness. 

The writer above covers how beauty aligns with wellness, not just one or the other. When a writer takes the time to explain their beat, it’s crucial to ensure your pitch aligns with their coverage. 

Question #3: Have I analyzed my potential publisher’s social media?

Another way to ensure your content aligns with a publication’s coverage is by analyzing their social media. 

Most publications update their writers’ information on social outlets and continuously post about changes to their site. By doing some investigating, personalization can become much more natural and ultimately show a publication that you did your research. 

For example, if we’re pitching FDA recalls content and see a potential publisher recently tweeting about a change in their “health” department, you can be sure to direct your pitch toward the appropriate writer just by staying updated with social media. 

Most writers also consistently post on their personal social media. Writers appreciate content promoters who take the time to read, analyze, and understand their interests online.

Note: A great way to get publishers to notice you is by giving them a like or share on their social profiles. Engaging with publishers is an important part of content marketing, and it could mean the beginning of a new publisher relationship.

Question #4: Have I considered the publisher’s engagement?

After considering a publisher’s beat and social media, you can then move on to their engagement. Not all top-tier publishers excel in every aspect, so explore how much traffic a publication gets and if their content is being shared on social media.

Some publications might be very authoritative and trusted but get very little engagement. Others might thrive on social but don’t syndicate to any other publishers.

So you need to consider your goals for your outreach. Is it to increase your brand awareness? Build backlinks? Something else?

There will be overlap in your goals, of course, but identifying your primary goal will help you identify the best publishers to pitch.

You can learn about publisher authority by checking metrics like domain authority, and you can check on the backlinks and social engagement of articles by using tools like BuzzSumo.

Question #5: Have I used all my resources to personalize this pitch?

As outreach strategies begin to come together, it’s time to ensure everything is customized.

For example, if you’re targeting an editor who writes about “all things sunny in Florida,” I cater my pitch using buzzwords in both a subject line and email like, “sunshine state” or “native Floridian.” Optimizing personalization sets great pitches apart from the bulk.

Notice in the example, the pitch also follows a light-hearted tone, which is the same style expressed by the writer. Aside from strategically crafting your pitch, fact-checking, ensuring grammatical perfection, and paying attention to the small details like the ones listed above can place a pitch above all the rest.

Achieving long-term connections and securing top-tier coverage is what all content promoters hope to accomplish. Reviewing each step and taking the time to research, craft, and personalize pitches can dramatically impact your results.

Although the process is meticulous, answering these questions will lead to meaningful publisher relationships and constitute successful results in content marketing. 

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Nicole Franco

Nicole Franco is a Media Relations Associate at Fractl, a marketing agency focused on producing engaging and impactful human experiences through effective outreach. When she’s not focusing on relationship building and promotional growth, you can find her volunteering at the nearest dog shelter, making every effort to not adopt every pup in sight.

Disclaimer: The author's views are entirely their own, and don't necessarily reflect the opinions of BuzzStream.
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