Earned media is like lightning in a bottle for startups — but only if you know how to drum it up for yourself.
“As seen in” media logos project instant credibility for your business or brand. If you want to get featured in publications — but don’t have thousands of dollars to blow on a publicist, PR agency, or other public relations solution — pitching stories to media yourself can be a great solution.
Press is a form of earned media, which is often considered the most trustworthy category of marketing. A whopping 92% of consumers say they trust earned media, whereas only 50% trust ads, according to a report from Cision, a data analytics company.
- Earned media refers to any type of coverage in which someone else is talking about you or your brand.
- PR is considered one of the most powerful forms of earned media, because the brand or publication recommending you has decades of credibility built up.
- Once you have a placement, you can refer back to it for the life of your career. Media coverage is sweat equity well-spent.
If you're someone who learns quickly when you see email pitch examples, or a sample pitch letter, this article is for you. Let's look at how to pitch broadcast media and other forms of PR, along with four pitches that worked.
Why Even Care About Pitching Media?
Earned media doesn’t always have to be big-name publications or TV shows.
- Doing a spot on a podcast or your local radio station is earned media.
- Giving a virtual masterclass in someone’s Facebook group is earned media.
- Writing a guest post for someone in your network is earned media.
When you have past placements to show off, it makes asserting credibility with readers or your target audience so much easier. By the time someone is ready to hop on a call or webinar with you and hear your sales pitch, they'll look at you like a celebrity.
A media pitch operates similarly to a good elevator pitch. It's quick, clear, and exciting.
You'll have more credibility
Once you've landed a placement in broadcast media, you can refer back to it for life, and can incorporate this distinction into your website, bio, and content to wow your qualified leads.
Whether it be quotes in publications, magazine features, television appearances, or podcast interviews, having outside endorsement from a media outlet projects authority.
Milk these placements in your future marketing efforts every chance you get. Here's me showing you a GIF of myself on TV. This was from late summer 2019. There was no pandemic back then — remember those days? 🙃
Being the featured expert in a live TV segment for KPRC in Houston, a top 10 Designated Market Area (DMA). I pitched the broadcast journalist myself for this opportunity.
Remember: The internet makes us increasingly skeptical with each passing year. As a writer and/or entrepreneur, you have to overcome this skepticism before readers will trust you.
You'll have more visibility
If you want to grow the audience for your business or brand, one of the best ways to speed things along is to (ethically) put yourself in front of someone else’s audience. PR does this well, depending on how engaged the outside audience is, and how deep or compelling the coverage ends up being.
A less-discussed marketing benefit of earned media is quality backlinks. When it comes to SEO, one of the biggest factors in making your website more visible is to have a variety of external backlinks: circumstances in which an outside website has linked back to your website or blog post.
External backlinks, defined as other websites linking back to your website, are a powerful driver of SEO. If your website is being linked to by other sites and media outlets, Google sees you as more reputable.
According to Backlinko, first-page results on Google searches get 71% of all the clicks, and the first result alone gets almost 30% of the clicks.
It's okay to aspire to be #1 here.
The more established a website is, the better its backlink. Media outlets have some of the most robust and established websites on the internet. These journalists are often busy, and the cold call is becoming increasingly antiquated, so you'll need both your pitch and follow up email to be succinct to land opportunities.
A handful of external backlinks could be the deciding factor as to whether your website appears on the first page of search results.
In some cases, you'll be paid
Cha-ching! Sending cold emails and following up can make you money.
Freelance journalists and writers make their living by pitching outlets that pay for content. If you want to make some moolah along the way, and can write quickly and well, pitch outlets that pay.
To make the grade, however, your pitch will need to be clean and tight. That means an attention-grabbing subject lines, a killer first sentence, a clear value proposition, and no spelling mistakes or grammar errors.
The little details make a big difference
I have DIY'd my own PR for years. But it wasn't until my consulting business' primary client was a startup PR agency for entrepreneurs that I really saw how this stuff worked.
In working alongside established publicists, I saw how they structured their pitches when pitching broadcast opportunities to maximize success and pursue breaking news. They rarely used a press release in their media pitching best practices.
Media pitch vs. press release — when possible, go with the former, which is more custom and specific.
Getting a media outlet interested requires many of the same strategies you probably already use to communicate your value proposition, promote a recent post, or make a call to action.
Whether you want to dip your toes into pitching now or later, it’s always helpful to see what has worked in the not-too-distant past. So here are screenshots of four email pitch examples of mine that became successful media placements.
Example No. 1: Timely, Relevant Information
Outlet: Business Insider
Commentary or content related to real-time events has high potential for media coverage.
The freelance journalism pitch example below was for a contributed article with Business Insider. In the wake of George Floyd's death and other social activism efforts, brands began using their Instagram link to encourage letters to local politicians and decision-makers. People online wanted to know how to create one-click email templates and promote activism via their own Instagram profiles.
These links are called mailto links — boring stuff, honestly — but suddenly they were trendy as hell.
I had used mailto links regularly in a prior job. After refreshing my memory on Business Insider’s submission instructions, I whipped up a tutorial and then sent this pitch over.
This pitch length is about what I aim for when pitching cold or gauging interest, and putting my bio after my signature helps the pitch feel shorter.
I once met an editor of a top NYC-based national magazine at a networking event; during our small talk, he mentioned he had gotten one thousand pitches that day. This is extreme, but receiving dozens or even hundreds of pitches a day is not abnormal for editors at established outlets.
Related: How to Write for Business Insider
Example No. 2: Idea Dump
OneZero was a popular technology publication on Medium. When they announced their new gadgets sub-publication Debugger, I decided to popcorn a few ideas over to the editors. I wasn't sure what the editors might want, so I led with three options.
The call for submissions also had a lighthearted side note, which was that dog pics were encouraged. This is strategic; it means you should send dog pics to prove you paid attention to the submissions prompt.
Here’s what I sent over.
I don’t normally include images in pitches, but since one of my article ideas was a visual tutorial, it made sense to throw it in. A media pitch email is very similar to a sales pitch email, make it exciting!
When you pitch a group of ideas like this, my suggestion is to keep it to three topics max, and to use the same 1–3 sentence formula as the previous example for each. Make the subject lines even more direct and clear.
Read this email pitch example closely. I state the problem the prospective audience has, then share how my article will solve that problem. What’s nice about this popcorn approach is that sometimes more than one pitch is accepted; in this case, two ideas turned into published articles.
Lead with the problem the audience has, not your company's story, to catch initial attention.
Example No. 3: Seizing the Opportunity
Outlet: USA TODAY
Don’t sleep on those HARO’s, y’all!
HARO is a database for journalists and sources. Journalists submit a query whenever they need an expert or commentary for a story, and three times a day HARO sends out a newsletter with the queries and gives you an opportunity to pitch yourself.
HARO is most online entrepreneurs’ first foray into "do it yourself" PR and media, and it can be a nice resource for drumming up mentions in various outlets.
I'll be honest: The pitch below is… not my best work. It was a long day, and at the time it felt like a long shot, so I threw something together and formatted it in a way that was easy to skim.
A few weeks later, I found myself flying to New York City for 24 hours to shoot some LGBTQ video content for USA Today. The feature came out three months later.
Notice how, again, I link out to some of my past placements for reference. Since this was a video opportunity, I gave the producer examples of me in a live interview setting so they could see how I show up on camera.
Be proactive in your pitches whenever you can.
Example No. 4: Rolodex Flex
Outlet: Screw The Nine To Five Podcast
Some of you already have relationships with potential media connections, but you're afraid to pitch them. Your connections would love to hear your idea! Develop relationships regularly by adding value to others, and you'll find yourself much better positioned to ask for a favor down the line.
I had listened to the Screw The Nine To Five podcast for years and had connected with the owners a few times. When my consulting business shifted, I reached out, and they suggested I send over three pitches — full pitches — in one email for consideration.
If I’m about to send a really long email or pitch, I sometimes put a few quick sentences up at the top to add any context or notes. Here’s what I sent – along with the pitch that was selected.
Even more than other types of media, podcast pitches have to really zero in on how an interview with you would add value to their audience. Always remember to make your pitch about them first and about yourself second.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you write a pitch for press?
Focus on the big three components of media writing: newsworthiness, targeting, and pitching. Then, in your actual email pitch, sell the story idea in a way that a broadcast journalist will want to cover it.
When studying how to write a journalism pitch, it helps to think about sales pitches. A successful sales pitch will be short, clear, and exciting.
What are some examples of a media pitch?
Examples of a media pitch can include a query letter, a query response, an introductory pitch, or a timely pitch related to breaking news. This skill is helpful for an entertainment media pitch.
How do you start a media pitch?
Use the first sentence or two of your pitch to indicate that your email is not a stock pitch. We editors get so many email blasts that we tend to prefer and pursue personalized pitches.
How should you introduce yourself in a pitch email?
Introduce yourself in a short, succinct sentence, then return to the point of your pitch, which is the story. You can then include more personal details in a bio under your signature. This makes your pitch feel shorter and easier to skim.
If you’re pitching yourself and not seeing results... keep at it.
Continue learning and look for how you can make your next pitch cleaner or more relevant to editors, producers, journalists, or other decision makers.
Sharpen your pitch game and you’ll see more of your ideas turn into interviews, mentions, and features that you can leverage as credibility markers for years to come.
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