Wednesday, 19 March 2014

How to write a pitch email that works to bloggers

How to Write a Pitch that Works

Can you name an unwanted side effect of having thousands of people reading your blog? Here’s one – complete strangers emailing you about their new blog, website, book or business and asking you to help them promote it.
The first time I got a pitch email like that I was actually pleased. Like most new bloggers I was desperate for my blog to be read by someone who wasn’t a friend or relative, and getting a pitch email let me know that I’d somehow got on someone’s radar. That first time, and many times after that, I replied to pitch emails with a polite email like this:
“Thanks for contacting me. So sorry I can’t help you this time but my blog isn’t about remote control cyborgs so I don’t think your product will interest my readers.”
Times have changed. Now a cursory glance is all an unsolicited pitch email gets before it ends up in my email trash can.
Even though I’m the kind of person who replies to all my emails (yes, it’s an illness, I’m self-treating) I don’t feel bad because some of the pitch emails don’t even seem to come from real people, or at least not people who have real communications skill, real passion for what they do or a real idea about how to get people to say yes.

How Not to Write a Pitch Email

Let me show you a few samples of pitch emails I’ve received to give you an idea of the suffering innocent bloggers and business people like  you and me are being put through. Take this as an example from a pitch email that recently turned up:
“Hello Rich,
I have been trying to reach you regarding…”
Unfortunately, this company plundered the domain name registry to see who registered my blog address and came up with my husband’s name Rich, not my name Annabel. Getting someone’s name wrong or misspelling it is bad enough but actually reassigning their gender is heinous.
This is a prime example of how not to write a pitch email and also includes an example of stilted writing in the use of “I have” instead of “I’ve”. I’m not sure if this email was actually written by a robot or just seems to have been.
Call me old fashioned but I still think “Dear” followed by their first name is the ideal way to start an email or letter to someone you don’t know. Unless you don’t know their name in which case find out what it is before emailing them. If you really can’t unearth a first or last name then you should either brush up on your detective skills or go with “Hi there,” as a last resort although I can’t recommend that.
Most people prefer to be called by their first names these days but I try to respect my elders and if I want to be formal, which an unsolicited email pitch calls for, I’d use a title and start the email “Dear Mr. Candy”.
Here’s another bad pitch email which shows that anyone can make mistakes.
A fellow web copy writer contacted me as part of a mass mailing via LinkedIn recently. This interesting email pitch case study highlights the dangers of mass mailings. Please bear in mind that I’m a professional web copy writer too and had connected with this copy writer on LinkedIn to support her endeavours. Then she sent me this:
Email Subject: Your LinkedIn Profile Needs Help!
That got my attention so I opened the email and read this:
“Why is your LinkedIn profile so weak?
I have to give this woman credit for being proactive in seeking work and her offer of $50 to rewrite a LinkedIn profile seemed like a good deal too. So good in fact, I might have even forwarded it to a few people if I hadn’t felt so insulted at being told my profile was weak. But my ego’s still intact because I decided she probably hadn’t actually read my profile – for starters it wasn’t that bad (admittedly not a Pulitzer prize winner but at least average) and it did at least say that I was a writer which would have been a red flag for her not contact me with her offer if she’d taken a moment to read it.
Even if she did mean to contact me I don’t think it’s a good plan to insult people and make them feel like idiots in a pitch.
To add injury to insult the entire email was in heavy bold lettering, with a lot of hideous italics thrown in. I’ve left it that way so you can see how unpleasant it looks.
The final nail in the coffin came when, because I’m inherently nosy (I am a writer after all) I decided to check out her LinkedIn profile to see what was so good about her profile writing. Sadly there was no link to it so I’ll never know.
how to write a pitch

How to Write a Pitch Email That Works

I could share many more bad email pitch examples but let’s move on to how you should write a pitch:
  1. Don’t pitch strangers by email or any other way. Build a relationship with them first on Twitter or by commenting on their blog.
  2. Be sincere and personal.
  3. Get your facts right, show them you’ve read their blog.
  4. Mention something you’ve done for them – linked to their blog, left comments, shared it on Facebook, subscribed to their newsletter, or bought their latest product.
  5. At the very least find out the person’s name and spell it right.
  6. Use the normal language and abbreviations you’d use if you were speaking to someone so you don’t sound like a robot.
  7. Be formal and use Dear as the opening address. Unless you don’t know their name in which case you’ve not got much of a chance.
  8. Avoid using exclamation marks in pitch or emails. They never inspire confidence in a business situation.
  9. Don’t insult the person you’re trying to win over.
  10. Always include a link to your blog and other social media profiles like Twitter and Facebook.
  11. Don’t do a mass mailing – you waste everyone’s time.
  12. Make sure the email isn’t all in an ugly font or bold lettering.
  13. Be brief. This isn’t the time to write an essay. Emphasise the benefits and let them know the best way to move forward.
  14. Thank them for taking the time to read your email.
  15. Don’t pitch at all.

How to Write a No Pitch Email Pitch That Works

I want to mention two books I’ve recently found out about, both written by blogging friends. Both the authors write great books and great pitch emails that follow all the rules above including the last one: don’t pitch.
These authors just emailed me saying they’d like to send me a copy of their book. They didn’t ask me to write about their book, they didn’t request I review it and they didn’t pressure me in anyway. They never emailed my husband instead of me. They never asked for anything. Which made me actually look forward to getting their books and open to reading them.
Well, actually they did ask for one thing. They asked me if they could send me their book. So I agreed. How could I not? I like to read. One of the authors didn’t even have to ask me for my address because he had the intelligence and consideration to  look for it on my blog and he found it all by himself. Who is this polite, respectful genius I hear you ask? What does he write about? Where does he live? How can I meet him? Is he married?
I’m happy to reveal it’s the one and only Rob White, who writes about success, lives in Boston and can be encountered regularly here on Twitter. Yes, he is married but unlike some of us he doesn’t seem to witter on about his personal life or divulge any of the little snippets of information I like to winkle out of people on his blog. I had to look on the inside cover of his book to find out his marital status. Hmmm, I wonder if that reticence is the reason for his success or a symptom of it…
But I digress. The point is that all these successful ‘pitchers’ actually did was ask if they could send me their book and then send it. Clever isn’t it? So that’s why I say the secret of successful pitching is don’t pitch and I’m happy to tell you about these two books.
how to write a pitch

180 by Rob White

180 is an  impressive  hardback book. It’s the kind of book you could keep by your bed and use as a personal weapon if an intruder snuck in on you, yet Mind Adventure writer Rob White sent it to me in Australia all the way from the USA.
180 contains 90 lessons for you to follow over a 90 day period to create a 180 turn around in your life. It’s stuffed with stories, quotes and illustrations that will inspire you to reach your full potential, change negative beliefs, stop worrying, feel happier and be more successful. It asks if you’re you ready to make a 180 degree turn around in your life and if you are, or know anyone who is I recommend it.
180 would make a brilliant gift for a young person on a special birthday, someone going through a mid-life crisis or anyone who wants to change their life for the better and is ready to make that their focus for 90 days. Check out 180 here.

Upgrade Reality by Dirk De Bruin

I call him Diggy and you will too when you get to know him. Diggy’s been writing about personal development at his blog Upgrade Reality for over a year and he’s got some great insights and stories to share.
His first ebook, also called Upgrade Reality will help people with improve their confidence, motivation, relationships and just about any area of their personal and business life.
What’s the best way for someone to pitch you?

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Photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives, Michael and Flyfshrmn98.
Author: Annabel Candy

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }
Eduard @ People Skills Decoded July 27, 2010 at 9:27 pm
Hey Anabel,
Reading this article, it made me realize how little attention we give to a pitch and to email communication in general. Most email are impersonal and robotic, they lack the human side and the authentic interest. I always appreciate an email which makes me feel I’m talking to a real person and I try to answer these emails every time.
Annabel Candy July 27, 2010 at 9:32 pm
Hi Eduard, great to see you here again! Yes, it’s not about the ability to contact 200 people at once at the click of a button. Showing you’re a real person who cares about and is interested in the other person is all that really matters:)
Diggy July 27, 2010 at 10:55 pm
Hey Annabel!
Fantastic post about pitching. It’s especially important as a blogger when you want to do guest posts or suggest your affiliate program to another blogger/webmaster.
I’m still learning but you’ve got some great advice here:)
Thanks for mentioning Upgrade Reality, it’s an amazing book as you say.
All the best!
Annabel Candy July 28, 2010 at 10:39 am
Hi Diggy, we’re all learning aren’t we and that’s what makes it fun! Congrats on getting the book out. Very exciting, now I have to follow in your footsteps:)
Mike CJ July 27, 2010 at 11:01 pm
As the receiver of regular pitches, I share your frustration, although I do always respond.
I’d simply never “cold” pitch anyone, and I think that’s the point you’re making. It’s no way to start a mutually beneficial business relationship. Invest some time in identifying the right people to pitch to, get to know them, and only then pitch your idea.
Annabel Candy July 28, 2010 at 10:40 am
Hi Mike, great to see you and thanks for summing it all up like that! Yes, we have to work on building a relationship first:)
rob white July 27, 2010 at 11:48 pm
Funny, I started reading your article hoping to pick up some tips on what I can do better. What a pleasant surprise – Thank you for the kind words. Your blogs are always a great resource and a fun, delightful read.
Annabel Candy July 28, 2010 at 10:42 am
Hi Rob, ah, that’s lovely, glad I gave you a nice surprise and wonderful to know you’re doing it right – the shining example of the NO pitch pitch that works:) Loving 180 so many thanks again for sending it to me!
Srinivas Rao July 28, 2010 at 12:38 am
I’m glad you wrote this up. As my blog has grown I obviously get contacted by more people which is really flattering. I actually got a pitch once where a guy who had no posts on his blog wanted me to send him a bunch of email subs before he launched his blog. I thought that was pretty ridiculous since nobody got any value out of it. This is great advice for networking with bloggers in general.
Annabel Candy July 28, 2010 at 10:43 am
Hi Srinvas, oh dear, I knew I wasn’t the only one! You do a brilliant job with networking and I’m sure that will pay dividends any time you need anything people will be falling over themselves to help you:)
Barbara Hammond July 28, 2010 at 2:07 am
Annabel, When I got to the chapter in 31dbbb about soliciting a mention from another blogger I cringed. I know it’s probably a character flaw, but I’m not good at asking for help, and that’s what it seemed like. I only sent one request and almost canceled that. So it’s a good list you have here of what not to do.
Having been in sales most of my adult life I am familiar with how to ‘pitch’, and have been successful pitching a lot of things, and a lot of people over the years… just not good at pitching myself, yet. The proof should be in the pudding, so to speak… and the blog will grow at its own pace.
Thanks, Barbara
Annabel Candy July 28, 2010 at 10:46 am
Hi Barbara, thanks for sharing this story. I think the Problogger book advice is good except I wouldn’t ask them to do that. Much better to tell them how you like their blog, how you seem to have similar stories/goals/values, how you’ve subscribed and mention their blog on your blog first. That way the mentions on other blogs will grow naturally without you ever having to ask.
Amy July 28, 2010 at 3:17 am
Dear Annabel: (I am tempted to put a smiley face here…but it might tempt you to add #16 to your list.)
Kidding aside, as someone who HAS recently pitched an idea, I found this post particularly informative and, at the same time, a wee bit intimidating (the whole time I was reading the list I was thinking ‘whew, I didn’t do that, whew, I didn’t do that, oops, I did that.). Looks like my biggest offense is the exclamation points!!! :0)
(I’m hoping that because this is a comment and not a pitch you’ll let me slide…)
On a serious note, I really appreciate how much work and thought goes into each of your posts. Thanks as always.
Amy Parmenter
Annabel Candy July 28, 2010 at 10:52 am
Hi Amy, lol, thanks for commenting! Smiley faces are great between friends so I think perfectly appropriate in blog comments:) Don’t be embarrassed, I’ve made plenty of pitches that embarass me too – it’s all part of the learning process. It wasn’t until I got to the end of this post that I realised that not pitching, not asking for anything, but just contacting people and telling them your story was the best way to go. At least it works for me anyway both when I send “pitch” emails and receive them.
I’m a rebel Amy, I hope you are too:) Rules are made to be broken and we can break one or two and get away with it but if you break all the rules of good pitching you’re in trouble. By all means slip in the odd exclamation mark (sometimes you just need one) but not too many!
Barbara Weibel July 28, 2010 at 3:57 am
Amusing post. Like you, I try to answer all my email, but I get hundreds of emails a week, so when I get a pitch that starts with “Dear ______” and no name appears after the word dear, I just hit delete. My name and story are prominently featured on my blog; if they can’t take a few seconds to find out my name, I have no interest in working with them.
Annabel Candy July 28, 2010 at 5:58 pm
Hi Barbara, yes, ‘Dear nothing’ isn’t a good start. It sounds harsh but you’ve been in this business a while and have made a successful business out of it by being business-like. If people want to work with a dynamic person like you they need to be business-like and dynamic too! Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. It’s great to see you here.
Steve July 28, 2010 at 6:01 am
Dear Annabel, that was a good post and I enjoyed it immensely! It is amazing how people will pitch when they don’t even know the game!
Oh, by the way, would you mind promoting my…Oh, never mind! ;-)
Annabel Candy July 28, 2010 at 10:53 am
Hi Steve, lol, it is a bit divcey writing this post. Not sure if I’ll get more pitches or less. I might just be blacklisted by everyone but I had to share this:)
Robin Dickinson July 28, 2010 at 8:21 am
Hi Annabel,
This is such rich and valuable I.P. of yours, I would much rather buy it from you! Sorry I sound like such a broken record, but as your ‘commercial guy’ I really believe this is highly salable material. I’m sure I’m not alone in this sentiment. :)
Perhaps give some context and a couple of pointers for free, and then put the rest in your shop. Hope I’m not out of line writing this??
Let’s discuss.
Annabel Candy July 28, 2010 at 10:57 am
Hi Robin, noI appreciate your honesty and you’re on the money! I hope I stop disappointing you soon and start selling some of these top tips. I do think they can help people improve their business and have a definite value. Off to focus on the money now:)
Marian Schembari July 28, 2010 at 9:12 pm
I used to BE that publicist. Thank God I quit! Too often publicists click “re-send” to hundreds of bloggers without asking themselves whether their product/book/personality is relevant. Some tips that I’ve found really work – this applies to all emails!
1. “Hello New York Journalist” is not a greeting. You’re 100% right about hunting down a name. Unpersonalized emails go directly in the trash.
2. Acknowledge something by said journalist. Reference an article or award. No need to be gimmicky or go overboard on the praise, just stick to why the product is worth their time.
3. But don’t suck up. Chris Brogan posted on his blog a while back, “Skip the flattery. PR types: starting with ‘I love your blog’ and then pitching me something I could care less about is a bit of a mismatch.”
4. Stick to the point. If it’s necessary to include a press release, do so after the signature. That gives the reader the option to ignore it.
Phew! Sorry, that got super long, but it’s so FRUSTRATING to see so many people screwing around and then asking why their pitches don’t get responses.
Yes, these steps take a bit more time than the average cut and paste. But not only do people want to reply to a personalized email, but they become more open to suggestions.
Annabel Candy July 28, 2010 at 9:25 pm
Hi Marian, thanks so much for visiting and leaving a lovely long comment with your fab tips. Yes, referencing a particular blog post shows you’ve possibly read the blog or at least glanced at it and makes you much more likely to read on than the generic “I love your blog”. That fills me with hope then deflates me when I realise I’ve been suckered! Great to hear it from a publicist and obviously a good one:)
Selena N. July 29, 2010 at 1:41 am
cleverly written! I really enjoyed this article, mainly because it got to the point that less is more when contacting bloggers. I get contacted through my blog a lot, too, and sometimes I don’t even read them.
Annabel Candy July 29, 2010 at 6:24 pm
Hi Selena, great to see you here and thanks for commenting. The headline is important – I mean the email subject – thanks for showing that if you don’t make it sound interesting people might not even read the email at all, let alone reply or say yes!
marlon @ productivity bits July 29, 2010 at 2:46 am
One of my biggest barriers in “approaching” other bloggers regarding blog linking is my lack of knowledge how to pitch appropriately. This post certainly gave me tips to do it the right way. I will try to incorporate these and see how it works for me.
Annabel Candy July 29, 2010 at 6:27 pm
Hi Marlon, thanks for visiting, it’s great to hear this helped you. Let us know how you get on but don’t forget to be persistent in a good way. Don’t give up if you get rejected first time round, keep going until you get accepted:)
Kate July 29, 2010 at 5:54 am
Thanks for writing about this.
Best first sentence of a blog post ever, by the way.
I get these types of pitches pretty frequently these days. I started out by responding to all of them, “You are welcome to submit a sample paragraph for my consideration.” They never wrote back. I still don’t know exactly what they want from me, but it’s nothing I want to give them!
In terms of pitching myself, aaaahhh!!! It’s exhausting doing all that research, just to be rejected. Sometimes I write to people without commenting a ton on their blogs. Or ever. Sometimes they respond!
Annabel Candy July 29, 2010 at 6:30 pm
Hi Kate, lol, I thought I’d mix things up and try the opening question:) That’s a good point that sometimes people do reply – maybe you get the tone right or maybe you email them on the right day. Who knows but it does show there’s a bit of luck involved too.
Tess The Bold Life July 29, 2010 at 9:19 am
Rob sent me his book as well and the stories, examples and cartoons are fantstic! Thanks for a well thought out article.
Annabel Candy July 29, 2010 at 6:31 pm
Hi Tess, what a guy! He’s got us all hooked:) Great to see you here and loving the sound of a bold life.
Memoirista July 30, 2010 at 3:38 am
Wow. Can I just forward this in lieu of sending a rejection letter to all of the queries I get via email? This is great, thanks!
Penelope J. July 30, 2010 at 6:48 am
Hi Anabel, thanks for an incredibly informative blog. I’m so new to the blogging world that I know nothing about pitches. The examples you gave of poor pitches and the list of ways to go about it (if you do) are invaluable though at this stage, it wouldn’t occur to me to send a pitch email to another blogger. For me, probably the best way is to select several outstanding blogs with similar interests and subjects and comment frequently on their posts. I’m a writer, and in a way, this reminds me of what to do and what not to do when sending a query letter to an agent or editor.
Sandra Lee July 30, 2010 at 4:22 pm
Annabel, This article makes me happy that I’m not at the level to receive such pitches! And with your instructions, I certainly won’t be writing any stupid ones. :)
Matt Hooper July 31, 2010 at 2:33 pm
I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed this post and I included in my weekly roundup of articles that I found throughout the week that intrigued me. If your interested you can see this week’s “Five for Friday” here:
Annabel Candy June 23, 2011 at 8:52 am
Mwah! Thank you Matt, delighted to connect with you here:)
Jessica August 9, 2010 at 12:59 pm
I too used to respond to them all. Now they almost over run my inbox.
Thanks for writing this!
Janet June 12, 2011 at 7:33 am
Hi Anabel,
I recently started blogging and know that I’ve got alot to do to improve my blog so I’m excited to have found you. I just subscribed to your blog because you have so much relevant information. Thanks for sharing!
Ken June 28, 2012 at 4:47 am
Just yesterday we were pitched an offer to post “exclusive excerpts” from a radio talk show that has very little to do with our blog topic.
I was almost flattered until I realized it was just a mass emailing by a marketing agent trying to promote someone’s new book for free on our blog.
I love your blog, Annabel, it’s now my favorite blog about blogging. Thanks!
Colette July 24, 2012 at 12:00 am
Thank you Annabel, that was one of the best summaries and most helpful instructions I’ve yet come across on pitching to bloggers. You have a terrific blog (just to prove a point – this is almost 2 years after first writing this post and it is still getting read and commented on!).
Angela August 30, 2012 at 12:25 am
Cheers for the advice, Annabel! Very useful and entertaining to read. I’ve even signed up for your newsletter, something I never do. Thank you very much!
Saurabh October 12, 2012 at 8:15 pm
Dear Annabel,
I was a googling for ‘blogging that works’ and your article showed up. This is the first time I’m visiting your blog.
More than anything I really loved your writing – I read the whole article in one go and it was really useful.
I’m really looking forward to read more articles from your blog now. :-)
Kimberly Scanlon November 25, 2012 at 1:29 am
Great tips! I’m so happy I found this post. I was in the middle of writing my first “pitch” email and now have to make some changes – all for the better! Thank you!
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