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Stat-Driven Tips on How to Pitch to Big-Name Publishers in Your Niche

Posted By Guest Blogger 22nd of October 2014 General 0 Comments

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This is a guest contribution from Wil of Startup Bros.

What’s the best way to pitch a content idea to the big players in your niche? What do today’s top publishers look for in a contribution? Many of today’s biggest influencers get hundreds of pitches every week. How do you stand out from the crowd?

It’s a tough question to answer unless you’re the one who’s doing the sifting. So, the folks over at Fractl went straight to the horse’s mouth to find out what separates the good enquiries from the bad. After surveying 500+ industry-leading publishers, writers and editors over the course of three months, they found several interesting trends. As you continue reading, you’ll find out specific, stat-driven dos and don’ts to keep in mind during your next pitch.

Publishers Love Market Research

What should you write about? Fractl’s study showed that 39% of publishers put a premium on market research, especially if it’s exclusive. That means you should either put your own spin on somebody else’s study (like what we’re doing right now) or write about research that you’ve personally done. Doing your own market research is actually easier than you might think. Once you come up with some questions you want to answer, here are a couple ideas to get reliable data:

  • Ask your email list or social following to complete a survey about an interesting industry trend.
  • Do the same thing, but using a crowdsourcing tool like mTurk or Google Surveys.

There are two big R’s to remember when writing about market research – Relevant and Recent. For example, you wouldn’t expect to publish your research findings about people’s favorite new restaurant chain on TechCrunch. Similarly, you wouldn’t expect SEOmoz to publish yet another “10 Reasons You Should Be Doing SEO” post.

Make Your Contribution Easy to Digest

Fractals study shows that publishers like content that’s easy to absorb. For articles, that means that you should write with plenty of white space. Use bold and descriptive subtitles so that readers can get your message without consuming every single word of your content. Better yet, incorporate graphics or imagery into your contribution. Fractl’s study shows that non-text contributions are becoming more and more important. Over 36% of published pitches feature some form of mixed media, whether that’s an infographic, data visualization or something else.

Publishers Want You to Collaborate

This one is actually a bit surprising. It turns out that almost all top-tier publishers want to work with you to develop your contribution.

  • 70% of publishers want you to pitch an idea, not a finished piece.
  • Only 30% will consider publishing a finished article, and even then they’re picky.

For each publication you target, come up with three or four different ideas you can pitch them. This gives your publishers a sense of ownership because they’re participating in the creation of your content. Warning!You shouldNEVER mass-pitch a contribution to lots of places at once. That’s a good way to get your email address relegated to the junk folders of the top publishers in your niche.

When & How to Pitch Top Publishers

When and how do publishers like to be pitched? Fractl’s study turned up some interesting trends:

  • 81% of publishers want you to pitch by email.
  • 69% prefer to respond to enquiries in the morning.
  • Shockingly, only 9% of publishers respond to pitches made through social media.
  • Less than 1% of publishers want you to call them with your pitch… The rest adamantly hate phone calls.

In addition to never pitching over the phone, you should also avoid pitching during holidays. Unsurprisingly, most publishers don’t read pitches they get during their time off work.

How to Write Your Enquiry

By now you know what to write about, what type of content today’s publishers want, when and how to pitch your idea… Now all you need to know is how to write your actual enquiry email. Fractl’s study turned up a few surprising trends you can incorporate into your next pitch:

Subject Line Matters Most – 85% of publishers open or delete an email pitch based on its subject line, so this is the most important part of your pitch. Ideally you want your email’s subject line to be descriptive and engaging using only 6 – 10 words.

Keep it Short & Sweet – Once they’ve opened your email, 85% of publishers want to read a brief pitch of less than 200 words. Don’t waste time buttering them up or assuring them that their readers will love your post… Introduce yourself, make your pitch and get out. Your idea should be so intriguing that 200 words is all it takes.

Good Grammar or Go Home – This shouldn’t need to be said, but Fractl’s study revealed just how important it is. Apparently, 9 out of 10 publishers will instantly delete a pitch if they find spelling or grammar errors. So, triple-check your enquiry email before you hit the send button.

What Can You Do With These Stats?

Fractl’s study makes it clear that behind the big names are normal people with likes and dislikes just like you and me. If you give them what they want, they’ll return the favor. With these stats, you don’t have to be nervous or afraid to pitch the biggest publications in your industry.

You now have the knowledge you need to stand out from the crowd and cultivate mutually beneficial connections with the leaders in your niche. Now go out and start pitching!

My name is Will, and I’m a young entrepreneur and marketer living in Tampa, FL. You can learn more about me from the StartupBros About Page.

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This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.
Comments
  1. Very nice post. I can imagine that market research would be very interesting to publishers, especially if the outcome is the opposite of what most people think.

  2. Good grammar is an absolute must when publishing to the Internet. It affects your affiliate commissions, how many RSS subscribers you acquire, and how many people share your content on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and ReddIt.

    Most importantly, it’s always a good thing to build positive and long-term sustainable relationships with fellow bloggers and people on social networks because those people will end up being your bread and butter as well as people who can vouch for your online legitimacy. These are also the people who will end up trusting you.

    • I would agree with you there in 99% of cases! However, the occasional well-ignored typo can really help you seem more genuine and relatable…

      I see this in my email open rates – people love to see me make mistakes :-D

  3. This is a very informative article. In online marketing world, a blogger or a webmaster shouldn’t waste his leads. I think to be very credible in a certain niche is also a must. You can’t get easy get a big name publisher if you aren’t expert in your niche. The more big name advertisers the more money a blogger or a website owner can make.

    You made my day for this post. Keep it up.

  4. Nice post! I can understand why only 9% of publishers respond to pitches made through social media. Social media just isn’t really the perfect medium to pitch, especially if you wanna pitch a larger player. I myself prefer email too. Would be great to see a template of the “perfect” pitch enquiry here…

    • The nice thing about publishers wanting short pitches is that you really don’t have to make it overly complicated. Here’s pretty much exactly what I use:

      ———————-
      Hi [First Name of Editor],

      My name is Will and I’m with the guys over at StartupBros.com. I noticed you don’t have anything published yet about [insert trending subject]… Do you think that’s something your readers would like to learn about? If so, here’s our idea:

      Your Eye-Catching Guest Post Title Idea Goes Here

      The post would aim to [insert ideal takeaways]. If this is something you’d be interested in, just let me know and we can put together an outline for you.

      Either way, thanks for your time and have a great day!

      Kindly,
      – Will
      ———————-

      Obviously, you’ll have to tailor the message to your idea and the publication your pitching, but I’ve sent pitches almost exactly like that and gotten good results.

      This complies with Fractl’s findings because it’s short, to-the-point and I’m just pitching an idea while demonstrating a clear interest in developing my post with them. Notice that I’m using words like “we” and “our” to make them feel included.

      • I like your pitch! It’s basically the same format I use, although I try to find a connection with the journalist and mention that first if at all possible – even if it’s something as trivial as “hey, we have the same hometown!” That one got me an “in” once. :)

  5. Hey Will,

    Awesome post! While this is an excellent article, I really love the ending part; big names are normal people with likes and dislikes.

    Absolutely! Thanks for sharing and totally appreciate it!
    ~Reginald

    • Absolutely! The first step is to get on their radar. Then you just need to make their lives easier on your own initiative.

      ANY successful entrepreneur will notice, respect, and reciprocate…

      It’s a great way to earn a seat at the table :)

  6. Wow only 9% via social media, interesting stats, 200 words might be a little short in my opinion.
    Thanks for sharing these tips bro’.

    • StartupBros gets about 3-4 guest post inquiries per day.

      If your pitch doesn’t catch my eye INSTANTLY, your post will never get published.

      Don’t forget that you’re PITCHING your article – and all the ordinary pitching rules apply…

      The more condensed and focused your messaging, the better…

  7. I’m curious if anyone here has ever done A/B testing with the pitches, like what you would do when you’re testing an email marketing campaign. I guess, it all ends up with VALUE – as in having something valuable to share.. and RESPECT – as in respecting the time of the person you’re sending the pitch to. Thanks for sharing these tips; will surely put it on top of my bucket list.

    • Glad you liked the article Marissa! You can absolutely a/b test pitches, and I would very much encourage it!

      If you’re testing a freebie for an email marketing campaign, just a/b test a few different ideas with something like Visual Website Optimizer. If your website has traffic already, it will be quick and easy. If you don’t have a website with traffic, you’ll have to drive some traffic (I’d suggest paid ads, just get the knowledge ASAP!)

  8. Hi Will,

    Interesting fact you got there, and very surprising to read only 9% of top publisher like being pitched on social media. Though, I too will prefer email to social places.

    Thanks for sharing all these fact with the problogger community.

    • I’m with you there Shamsudeen – I can barely check my Facebook any more, WAY too much going on there… Also, once publishers hit a certain size, you’re pitching the editors or somebody lower in the organization – so it becomes tough to hit the correct person on Social Media…

  9. Hey Will,

    Thanks for presenting us with the results of this awesome & useful survey. Some interesting finds, indeed.

    I see that this very post follows the first survey results. lol. Good one! I actually didn’t know that market surveys were so highly prized.

    Thanks much for the stats about publishers preferring to collaborate, on when & how to pitch and best practices for the pitch itself. All really good to know, especially since I didn’t actually know most of this.

    I’m going to follow this advice for future pitches and see if what kind of results it brings.

    Thanks again,

    cheers, Lash