The Differences in Pitch Style & Purpose Are Helpful to Understand
So when pitch samples hit my desk for my bad pitch column, Rock The Pitch, or I get pitched myself as a blogger, I know instantly where it’s coming from: a PR professional, a business owner/entrepreneur or someone trying to get an SEO backlink.
How that pitch is written can be VERY revealing. Motives are similar – a chance to publish a guest post or article – but many tend to follow an all-too-common, copy and paste template that reveals their true purpose behind the pitch.
[Tweet “Sadly, it’s rare to get a pitch that is specific, interesting and relevant.”]
I believe this is less about PR pros and more about WHO ELSE sends pitches. It’s not a practice exclusive to public relations specialists like it used to be.
Why do I write about backlink pitches in a PR blog? Because journalists complain about the quality of a pitch and attribute it to lazy PR pros when it isn’t actually coming from a PR professional (not that we don’t screw up, too), and PR pros scorn pitches on their client blogs mentioning money or compensation.
Both criticize or laugh about how bad the pitch is, without realizing where it’s coming from or the motivator behind it.
Is it truly a terrible pitch from an inept PR pro, or is a backlink ploy from an SEO programmer?
Is it from a small business owner or marketing generalist with no PR experience?
Understanding the who, what and why of different pitch styles can be valuable insight. It also can help lessen harmful assumptions and criticism in our industry.
Maybe I use the wrong word in my headline – smackdown – but without disparaging either SEO or PR, let’s dive into some of the differences.
The Linkbuilder Pitch
SEO agencies are improving their skills at replacing old school linkbuilding email blasts with blogger relations and PR-style pitching to land backlinks, but even the largest agencies still have a long way to go.
Why? Because they focus on volume and cost-per-backlink, which are major roadblocks to their own success with bloggers.
Most simply don’t understand that bloggers (1) are looking for people that can contribute to their community, not just their blog, and (2) require posts that dovetail into their own goals instead of the goals of whoever is sending the pitch. They are focused on getting as many backlinks as possible at the lowest cost each – sacrificing quality and any interest in relationships.
Here are a few common linkbuilder emails coming from SEO people, and the red flags that mark them as linkbuilding.
1. “I’m xxx, content writer for xxx (a domain with “seo results” in it). This email is to let you know that your site was referenced by some authoritative sites.
I noticed that you’re accepting guest authors on (misspelled hyperlink to one of my blog posts that has nothing to do with guest authors), I would like to contribute and share my expertise and insights about SEO articles to your readers.
All contents will be originally written by me. Please let me know if this works for you or if you have any suggested topics you want me to cover?”
Why do SEO people always mention they are a content writer? It does not indicate better quality – usually the opposite. In conjunction with the link to their website that has “seo” included in it, the email is a turnoff from the very first sentence. It tells me the sender might be hyper-focused on landing placements instead of creating high quality content.
The obvious copy/paste wording and typos reinforce this, and tell me this might be sent from someone who lives oversees and has English as a second language – a common content creation system used by SEO firms looking to pay as little as possible for fast content. They are all about volume, not quality. No, thanks.
[Tweet “Many #SEO linkbuilding agencies focus on fast, cheap volume – not a quality #PR pitch or great content. #timetochange “]
Last, it mentions that I accept guest authors when there is only ONE guest post out of several hundred. I really don’t. Unless they are referencing my PR Pro Showcase? That’s a little different – but their pitch doesn’t fit in with the requirements for those submissions.
Mentioning my site is referenced “by some authoritative sites” also tells me this is a linkbuilding tactic. It shows what interests them the most about my site. PageRank. (Does PageRank even exist any more?)
2. Hi! I’m an avid reader of http://rockthestatusquo.com/ I was able to read your blog and I truly appreciated the information. I noticed that you have published guest posts from different authors in your niche; I thought it would be a good opportunity if I could contribute to your audience by sharing some articles that I have personally written.
I am very passionate about Tech related and many more, and I do blogging and guest posting as an avenue to reach people and share my knowledge and personal insights.
It would be a great honor to share my article of 500+ words, Hoping for your positive response.”
Those focused on linkbuilding try to educate themselves on blogger relations, but it’s often a superficial effort that doesn’t make their pitch more palatable. For example, they’ve read a “best practice” article touting how important it is to build a relationship with the blogger, so they claim to read their blog or enjoy their posts… yet they’ve never left a comment, subscribed or done anything to contribute to the bloggers community. (Some PR pros do this, too. #baddognobiscuit)
This particular pitch tells me what the sender is interested in writing about in a generic sense, but it doesn’t have anything to do with my blog topic. It also includes a link to my blog – telling me they need something in their email to keep track of where the pitch went, since it clearly does nothing for me. I think I know my own URL pretty well. It also might be something they have in their template pitch to “personalize” the pitch. It doesn’t work.
This could be a pitch sent by a small business person, but because it is written in first person, it’s clearly not from a public relations professional. Another indicator that it’s not PR-related is how much detail is centered around the sender, instead of giving specifics about the article or topic being pitched. Even the most inexperienced PR person pitches something more specific than “I like to write guest posts to reach people.” After all, the placement has to benefit their client in some way, right?
3. “I work as the content editor for xxx, an addiction treatment facility based in xxx. This week, one of my writers named Amy wrote an in-depth research article that examines the relationship between humans and steroid abuse and the resulting short term and long term effects. While she was researching information for the article she came across one of your pages.
Throughout the article Amy highlights shocking statistics and insights that show not only how steroid abuse can lead to physical problems as well as emotional and social problems in some cases.
If you would like, I would be more than happy to have a quick introduction for Amy’s article written for your website to better help introduce the topic.”
This pitch is fairly well-done – except for the fact that my blog doesn’t cover steroid addiction or abuse. I simply referenced the phrase “on steroids” in a headline. Obviously, whatever monitoring software they use picked up my post due to a keyword they were watching, but they didn’t actually click through to my post and read it, or look at the focus of my blog. Great job on the monitoring, but no time invested in looking deeper than the headline. I can’t speak to the quality, but the placements of this content is probably marginally helpful for the client.
This pitch could be coming from a content marketing agency/department or SEO, since it references “a team of writers” – but it just doesn’t read like it comes from a PR person or agency. If so, it’s one far more focused on content development than media relations. Since there are far more SEO agencies than pure content marketing agencies, and I’m assuming the budget of an addiction facility wouldn’t be large, I’ll assume this pitch seeks a backlink.
It also reads like they are placing duplicate or syndicated content, not an original piece – something not typical to PR agencies. That smacks of badly done backlinks or someone only interested in reach. If it were a PR agency, I’d hope they would be interested in generating relevant traffic and conversion over reach.
The PR Pitch
Pitches from PR pros and small business owners/entrepreneurs pitching bloggers and journalists can also be poorly done, if it isn’t closely aligned with the publisher’s topic and audience. This can be caused by inexperience or not investing time in doing homework before the pitch. Mass blasting a pitch is NEVER a good idea, right? It’s obvious and a time-waster for the recipient.
I’ll use a few pitches from my Rock The Pitch column as examples.
1. Hi there,
Spring is finally here! The sun is shining and flowers are blooming, but here at <name removed> we are finding ourselves most excited about one thing: the start of brunch season!
We’ve put together a few checklist items for the ultimate brunch event. Now we want to know what makes your perfect brunch. We’d love for you to create a post telling us your best brunch tip: whether it’s a recipe, an outfit, or just your own favorite must haves to make your brunch the best in town.
You can check out our post here: <link URL removed>
Please let me know if you have any questions, and I look forward to hearing from you!
While brunch and Easter have nothing to do with the beauty blogger it was sent to, they are clearly seeking engagement with a vague assumption this will result in some sort of coverage by the blogger – either embedding their brunch checklist or linking to it. That’s a typical PR play.
SEO agencies and content marketing companies usually seek placements with no thought to engagement and are very clear about the backlink request since they are paid per link – so this rules them out. Plus, even with all the conversation happening around the impact of social signals for SEO, engagement is far more expensive than cheap backlinks and a long-term play, so it’s not a tactic they use UNLESS they’ve hired PR staff to help them evolve. While the more sophisticated SEO agencies understand the value and benefit of post engagement and tie those comments to social media in some way, this is far beyond what most SEO agencies are looking for.
PR people don’t ask for a link – it doesn’t occur to most of them – and the language is a bit (pardon the pun) flowery, I think it’s a safe assumption this is PR-related.
As a PR pitch, I’ve seen worse. If the pitch had been sent to a mommy blogger that isn’t focused on pay-for-play or one focused on consumer entertainment, for example, it probably would have gotten some interest. It wasn’t a bad pitch, but it was sent to the wrong blogger.
2. Hi, Since becoming a must-have consumer accessory over the past few years, vaporizers have evolved from big box devices to sleek, fast portables. In this up-and-coming industry, <company name removed> has officially begun providing the newest innovation in vape technology, the <brand name removed>. While other vaporizers have traditionally been bulky and inconvenient for travel, the Ascent easily fits right into your pocket for an on-the-go vaping experience.
This portable vaporizer offers an innovative and efficient design, as well as many advanced features including programmable OLED display, a dual mouthpiece, and a full 3-hour battery life. Compact, yet powerful and versatile, the<brand name removed> can be used with both aromatic blends and liquids. Its glass-on-glass air path provides perfectly tasting vapor and an easy-to-clean interior. The programmable OLED display allows you to set your own desired temperature for a unique and specific vaping experience.
Available at <URL removed> for $249.99, the <name removed> is perfect for any aficionado who longs after the most cutting-edge portable technology. The <brand name removed> is available in burl wood, carbon fiber, stealth black, and a limited edition skull design.
Please let me know if you would like additional information or artwork.
This is obviously a PR pitch to promote a new product – and one that is badly done. It’s not even a pitch, actually, since it basically just regurgitates a press release. If the PR person had customized it and made it less of a template and more of a specific story idea, it might have been successful. It also should have been sent to more targeted media instead of a technology blogger.
How can I tell? It reads like something sent to a journalist.
Bloggers are different, people! Pitch one story idea for a blog post, don’t send general information about your product or service and expect it to magically transform into something. Look at their site, see if they review products and have requirements for their reviews, see if they accept guest posts and have guidelines posted around what they do and don’t accept, but most of all – look at their blog to understand their audience and topic, then customize your pitch accordingly.
Does this help? I hope it helps, but maybe it’s just my inner geek that thinks it’s important.
Anyway, enough rambling and back to work…. ciao, baby.