How To Get Featured In Forbes
I’ve been a contributor for Forbes, and other publications, for 2 years and I get at least a dozen emails every day from PR people trying to get me to write about their clients. So far I’ve only written about one.
Why? Because their pitches are horrible.
Here’s one I got yesterday. I didn’t publish the name of the company, but I should have put them on blast.
I'm Doris from Anonymous Company. I'm sincerely writing to request an interview by you with the CEO of Anonymous Company, a rapid prototyping tool.
We could provide great discounts for all of the Forbes users if the interview content can be post on Forbes.com and shared with the subscribers of forbes.com.
As long as the user has registered Forbes.com and subscribed the newsletter, he can get a discount of 30% Off
Up to now there's no website users can get this discount.
And we will offer you a free perceptual license (worth $399) of Anonymous Company’s software so that you can try it anytime you want.
We prefer a questionnaire interview and we will refine the answers.
If you like this idea, please let me know.
Hope you are in good health!
This is actually like 99% of the email pitches I get. It’s scary how bad they are.
Now, I’ve only been writing for a couple of years, so I didn’t know how the PR business worked until recently.
I had brunch with a friend of mine (a HUGE influencer) last week and she was complaining about her PR guy. He hadn’t gotten her press in months.
Then she told me what she was paying him: Five thousand dollars a month!
The best part? He’s on a retainer and he doesn’t guarantee anything. So for five thousand bucks, she gets a commitment from him that he’ll try to get her press.
Are you kidding me?! I’m in the wrong business.
I’ve been in sales my whole life and I only get paid if I sell something. So, to get paid for doing nothing is completely foreign to me. I still can’t even wrap my head around it.
She went on to tell me that her publicist is on the low end, price wise. PR people for larger influencers charge much more.
Sounds pretty sweet to me.
Now, you’d think for all that money they’d send a better email.
First, let’s take a look at where the PR person went wrong. These are common mistakes to avoid if you actually want to get someone’s attention:
- No personalization: This email came in from my blog, www.tomward.com which features all of my articles, a bio, etc. So, she went to my site, saw basically everything about my life, and didn’t mention anything personal in her email. All she had to do is say she read a couple of my articles, visited where I’m from, etc. Anything to make a connection. Instead, she just copied and pasted her email.
- Didn’t explain what the product is: I still have no idea what this software does. She included a link to their website but even after visiting the site I’m still not sure. And the only reason I visited the site was because I’m writing this. Otherwise, I would never have clicked on the link.
- Didn’t send this to the right writer: I don’t cover tech or software for Forbes. I write about influencer marketing, social media, and branding. Why would I write about some janky software that I’ve never heard of? Why would I get excited for a free demo of software that I have no need for?
- Dictates the terms of the interview: This was my favorite. She said, “We prefer a questionnaire interview and we will refine the answers.” Oh isn’t that nice. Do you want to write the article too? Who the hell is she? All right, I’m a little angry, by nature, but c’mon who is she to tell Forbes how she wants the interview to go? When I’m interviewing celebs or big executives, I’ll follow their direction but not for someone I've never heard of. No one is going to read a stupid article about software that no one cares about, so she’s got to calm the fuck down.
- Doesn’t mention the reader once: The most important thing about writing is the reader. You should always be asking yourself, “Why would the reader care? Is this interesting or useful to them?” Never once does she mention why an article about this software is beneficial to the reader in any way.
This isn't even one of the worst pitches that I"ve gotten. It's just an average one I picked at random.
So where the hell is everyone going wrong, and how can you get placement in major publications? Don’t worry; I’m going to break all down for you:
- Focus: It seems like the pitches that I get just come from some email marketing list. Sending a template email to every writer from Forbes might seem productive, but this is actually just a huge waste of time! Instead, they should be looking for writers and publications that cover what they’re trying to promote. It’s way more productive to send 10 personal emails to the correct journalists, than 500 random ones. Remember, less is more.
- Form Relationships: The one pitch that I actually did write about took a different approach. First, he reach out to me via LinkedIn and sent me a short note. “I like the last two articles you wrote about influencers for Forbes and would love to grab coffee someday. I’m based in LA and represent several big influencers. I always love connecting with people in this space. Let me know when you’ve got some time to chat.” Perfect! I actually met him and his boss for coffee and we just talked about influencer marketing for an hour. They were smart and interesting people. It gave the people to the people that they represented. He pitched me some of his clients, and I ended up writing about one of them. Most of the major publications are based in NY or LA, so if you don’t live in those locations you might not be able to meet up but you should always try to, if possible. Conventions and trade shows are a great place to meet people from around the country. If you’re just starting out, form relationships with local publications where you can actually meet the journalists.
- Think About The Reader: Why would the reader care about your client or product? Would most readers of Fast Company care about a landscape planning software (I was actually pitched this) when there are already hundreds of platforms out there? Unless it’s backed by big VCs or a celebrity, probably not. They should have been pitching landscape industry publications, software blogs, entrepreneur sites, etc.
- Think Of Different Ways To Connect: 95% of the pitches I get come via email but the most effective ones I have gotten come from other channels: LinkedIn, Twitter, my blog, etc. A short note on social media means a lot more than a spammy email because it shows that you actually searched the writer out.
- Twitter: Every writer/journalist uses Twitter. Almost all of them are verified too, because Twitter makes it easy for media types to get verified. You need to be active and verified too because it gives you credibility. Check out my article here on how to get verified.
- Don’t Pitch Garbage: This goes to your client selection. If you pitch terrible ideas or represent crappy clients, writers won’t consider your stories.
- Don’t Be Difficult: I can’t stress this enough! I work with a lot of influencers and they can be difficult. Actually the micro influencers and the major influencers are usually great and professional. The mid-tier ones (200k to 1m followers) are the toughest. They have a ton of input, give restrictions, cancel calls and meetings, etc. It makes me never want to work with them or their PR company ever again. Also, if you get someone interested in your story, respond in a timely manner or actually get excited. I can’t tell you how many times PR companies took so long to respond to an email that I actually moved on to something else.
- Write Stories Yourself: Pitch yourself as an expert and write articles yourself for a publication. If you represent clients in a particular industry, you would be qualified to speak on new products, issues, trends, etc. in that industry. You can also mention your clients in your stories, but you need to make sure you don’t turn your story into a giant infomercial.