Pitching the Press? These 5 Tips Will Raise your Batting Average

by Jeff Vance on September 16, 2013

in PR/Marketing,Tech Trends

My latest story for Network World, “20 Essential Business Apps for iPhone and iPad,” just published this morning.

The story – well, my editor actually turned it into a slideshow – features a majority of apps from Story Source subscribers. I did get a decent chunk (I’d say 40-45%) from HARO, but the quality from you was, as always, much higher.

If you’re just here to learn about my next Network World sourcing opportunity, scroll to the bottom of the page.

When I announced this iOS app story, I received more than 100 suggestions, probably more. HARO alone netted 84. I was pitched about 35 or 40 through Story Source, and I have no idea how many trickled in from Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. For the sake of convenience (and to simplify my math), let’s just round the number of pitches to 125.

20 iOS Biz AppsObviously, the odds of my taking any particular pitch aren’t great, but for a roundup like this, they’re probably better than you think. For a typical story, where I’m only looking for 3 or 4 sources, I usually get 50 or so pitches, sometimes more. The low end is usually about 25 or 30.

So, typically, you have a 6-10% chance of getting your client (well, usually one of their customers) in as a source.

For this story, your odds are more in the 15-20% range. Not bad. Of course, since I get so much complete garbage coming my way through HARO, LinkedIn, etc., you can probably bump that up to 30% or so. With those numbers, you’re no longer a fringe minor leaguer, but an everyday player in the Big Leagues.

How do you ensure that you hit those percentages for all of your pitches?

Let me highlight a few things that stood out in the pitches that worked for this story:

1) Focus on meeting my needs, my editor’s needs and my audience’s desires – above all else. In other words, the pitches that worked convinced me that the app was a good fit for my specific story. The vendor was deemphasized, and, perhaps, the PR pro took the time to look at my past roundups to learn about the sorts of things I tend to go for. Moreover, successful pitches were free of any of those “my client really wants to be in this roundup” signs of desperation.

A perfect example of a good app pitch came from Grace Emery at Highwire:

Hi Jeff,

I’ve sent over some info on Roambi before, but I think it’s the perfect fit for your request—it’s a business-only app AND designed for iOS (and iOS only).

Roambi is the stunning business app that redesigns the way the world interacts with data both big and small. Built on the belief that mobile changes everything, Roambi delivers the most engaging, interactive information to anyone – anytime, anywhere. It eschews the “shrink to fit” mentality we see in the design of so many business apps, and instead thinks for the small screen first.

 Through constant innovation and relentless focus on user experience, Roambi transforms data to illuminate important issues and deliver key insights via its iPhone and iPad app. Whether it’s the busy CEO stepping out of a board meeting to quickly review Q3 earnings on his iPad to the traveling sales rep who needs to show performance metrics to a client at a glance, Roambi connects you with the information that matters, putting the pulse of your business in the palm of your hand.

Would love to hear if this may be a good fit for your roundup! Screenshots below.



Okay, if I were writing this pitch, I’d probably strip out some of the adjectives and superlatives, but that’s why I’m not in PR. Otherwise, the pitch is spot on. Every selling point is either about how Roambi matches the criteria I set out, or why it will appeal to my audience. Bonus points for pointing out how Roambi is differentiated from the typical business app since it “eschews the ‘shrink to fit’ mentality we see with so many business apps.

2) You read the entire opportunity. My queries tend to be pretty detailed. I do this to try to weed out stuff that’s just not a good fit before it ever hits my inbox (I know, I know, good luck with that).

I write detailed queries not just to save my time, but also to save you time as well. Who wants to waste time on a mirage, after all? However, too many people just read the subject and the first sentence, and then pound out a pitch.

It’s always obvious when they’ve committed this sin. It shows through the entire pitch.

Even if you bumblef**ked your way to a good pitch after you didn’t bother to read through the criteria, I’m probably going to say “no.” I’d rather take a pitch that’s slightly less of a perfect fit from someone who did their job than reward someone who can’t even be bothered to read directions.

3) Timing is everything. An app roundup like this is technically an evergreen. As long as the apps are still relevant, the timing of the story doesn’t matter much.

But, in reality, it does. The iPhone 5S release date is just around the corner, so any apps that take advantage of new features will catch my eye.

And then there is the rest of the news swirling around us each and every day. Check out the slideshow. The first apps featured are Silent Phone and Silent Text, encryption apps which help you avoid eavesdropping, even from the NSA.

There’s a reason I put that app first and why my editor featured it as the first slide. He shuffled a few of the others around, but not that one. Why?

Context matters. Snowden and the NSA leaks are top of mind these days. This app triggers a reader’s curiosity in multiple ways.

4) Focus on persistent pain points. Take a look at Verbalizeit. The app features real human translators behind the app, since the typical smartphone translation app kind of sucks. Sure, it’ll be if you just need to give your hotel address to a cab driver or you want to avoid ordering raw octopus, but in business settings, translation apps fall flat.

This pitch actually came through HARO and was from the CEO of the company, not a PR pro. Since I’m constantly haranguing the HARO crowd and non-PR people when they send me crappy pitches, I should tip my hat when they do well.

5) Surprise me. The other thing about Verbalizeit is that it features the element of surprise. It pretty much admits that we’re going about this translation problem all wrong. Why not use the app to overcome other barriers that are easier to solve, such as expensive international calling rates?

Sometimes you just need a human being to help you, and if Verbalizeit can make that connection easy and affordable, it’s a good alternate solution. That’s not the roadmap to success that I would have expected, but it makes perfect sense the minute you see it.

My next Network World App Roundup

One of the apps that did not make it into this roundup is focus@will. It’s a cool little app, one that I demoed and found that it lived up to the PR claims.

I actually featured it in the roundup I sent my editor, but he pulled it because he’d like to see if I can dig up a dozen or so more of these for another roundup.

So, what is focus@will and what does it do?

Here’s my entry for it:

The focus@will app streams music that is intended to boost your concentration. To develop the app, the focus@will team worked with neuroscientists at UCLA to understand how music influences motivation, and which types of songs, playlists, and genres encourage people to enter “the zone” where they’re most productive. As a result, all of the focus@Will playlists are designed first and foremost so they don’t distract you, meaning there are no songs with vocals, saxophone solos or other elements that researchers have found to be distracting.

Songs are chosen to help you focus, concentrate, and get into the flow of working, almost immediately after you’ve pressed play. The service offers a variety of genres, so you have some choice in what you listen to while you work. I gave it a try while writing a chunk of these entries, and while it could have just been the placebo effect, it sure did seem to work.

What I’m looking for are other apps that are similar. I want productivity apps based on real science, preferably neuroscience or psychology.

I want apps that help you with concentration, creativity, visualization, procrastination or whatever else will help you be more successful at your job.

I know that’s a bit vague, so please do your best to ensure that there is a solid foundation, one based on science not anecdotes, for the app.

Deadline: September 27. 

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