The content placement pitch: back to basics

The content placement pitch: back to basics

22nd April 2014

Media LensThe art of the pitch should be second nature to most PR people. It’s what we spend a good proportion of our time trying to get it right and then follow up.  Even so, journalists  – and in more recent years bloggers and webmasters – have had to put up with poorly targeted PR pitches/press releases from supposedly professional PR people for years.  Whilst many digital companies are now employing PR people/tactics, it seems that many haven’t quite got it right – I’d say more, sadly, on balance – than PR people.

The following are six really basic, but often overlooked, principles:

  1. Look at the site you’re pitching to before you approach – even the smallest bit of knowledge is better than none. And then tailor your pitch to make it relevant to the site you’re pitching to.
  2. If a webmaster/journalist/blogger then engages with you, listen to what they’re asking for and try and deliver by tailoring your content to what they need, in the format and timeframe requested.
  3. Use a genuine email address – gmail, yahoo etc addresses raise alarm bells. Most bloggers/journalists don’t care which agency you’re from and whether you’re PR or SEO. They care about the content, and if your content’s any good, a long term relationship – so hiding it just looks unprofessional.
  4. Use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. No excuses.
  5. Giving people a website or Google + address to track you back as an individual writer inspires trust – as long as what’s there when the recipient takes a look is good quality.
  6. If you get it wrong – and we all do sometimes – apologise and correct. For as long as you are having a conversation with the editor, there’s still time to bring the opportunity back. Laziness will end the conversation.

Why this particular six? Frankly, there’s no such thing as a perfect or template pitch.  What’s a good one for one person may be seen as a bad one by someone else, and relevance and timing are everything – that changes with time.

I will, however, take you through a recent example pitch (genuine) – I’ve chosen this one because it nearly had me accepting an article, but then fell at the first hurdle.

One site I work with has a published policy on taking guest posts.  In essence the statement is: make it relevant for our audience and well written, and we’ll consider it. It’s clear, it’s public and it’s there for the readers’ benefit. The content is what’s important to us, not your link which will only be included if it’s there for the readers benefit.

Yet this particular site gets a daily approaches from brainless automatons interested only in one thing – the link.  Yes, I know it’s strongly worded, but really – why waste your time and someone else’s?

So here’s the pitch that nearly ‘had’ me personally on a professional services blog, and why. (Please note that on another blog/ another day, the interaction might have been killed a lot sooner).

From: Melisa [name taken out to avoid embarrassment] <melisa[xxxx]>
Sent: 24 February 2014 09:21

I looked through your blog and decided to write a guest post for you, if possible. Are you interested in it?
But first, a little about myself. My name is Melisa [xxx}. I graduated from University of Phoenix, my major is marketing. But the second thing I always was interested in is writing, that’s why I work as a writer now. Moreover, I write articles for various blogs, sharing my personal and professional experience. I cover various topics, including business, marketing, social media, self-improvement, lifestyle & health.
I see that your site welcomes guest posting. Can I contribute? If yes, then, please, email me your requirements.

If you need the samples of my previous work, I share them in Google+, please check: [link removed]

Waiting to hear from you,
Melisa [name removed]


She’d seen we take guest posts, apparently, and it wasn’t a pitch I’d had before (ie not an obvious template) so I gave her the benefit of the doubt.  She seemed pretty junior, but unlike many pitches, this one contains correct grammar and punctuation and was polite. We all have to start somewhere, so I gave her a chance.

There were alarm bells ringing, however. The ‘gmail’ address on a professional approach was a bit of a give-away and had my ‘spam alert’ sensors up, as did the unusual spelling of Melisa. But good content is good content, and she seemed keen. She also seemed to understand that I would ask for features of a certain type and length: “email me your requirements”.

At first look, the Google + address she gave seemed to hold some reasonable content. (I revisited it this week and it’s full of posts containing nothing more than hashtags – which earns a #fail – and the same repeated content on behalf of a freelance writing organisation – probably fake and I wouldn’t be persuaded now.)

Anyway, at the time the posts seemed to check out, so I dropped Melisa a note with our policy, because although she’d seen we took guest posts, I was guessing that she hadn’t read the policy, which contains a statement that vague ‘articles’ requesting links to sites won’t be considered. With a clear guideline to the type of content/subject matter we would accept, I confidently expected Melisa to get back to me with a proper pitch along the lines of “I could get you an article on XYZ subject, relevant to what you cover”.

Instead I received the following:

From: Melisa [name taken out to avoid embarrassment] <melisa[xxxx]>
Sent: 07 March 2014 08:00
To: Claire Thompson
Subject: Re: GUEST POST

I’m ok with your guidelines. Are there any particular topics you’re interested in? Do you allow the links in the author bio? I’d like to add two links: one to the essay writing service I work for and one to my personal Google+ profile.

Best wishes,

Melisa [name removed]


Frankly, if she was asking this, she hadn’t read the guidelines – which made clear reference to the type of content accepted and to accepting links only if relevant/adding value for the reader. She had nothing of any value to say.

She still had a chance to recover the situation when I pointed this out by apologising and coming back with a clear pitch to place relevant content, but chose instead to write me a rude, angry response. So for wasting half an hour or so of my time, and more than that of her clients’ time, she went away with no result.

Maybe she was stupid and couldn’t understand the guidelines, but to me it simply looked like she was too lazy to take a look or had been given some template responses to cut and paste.

So before you make the same mistakes, or give some poor freelance or outsourced agency some half-baked templates to follow for outreach, with a focus only on getting that link, stop and think. One good quality, relevant, timely pitch will probably get you a far better result than a million spammed template emails.


Written By
Claire Thompson has has 15 years PR experience and runs Waves PR, which she founded. She has great taste in wine and lousy taste in music. The two are not unconnected!
From Travel to Training via Some Dodgy Links
Latest Post from Claire
PR From Travel to Training via Some Dodgy Links
17th March 2015
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.