High-Tech B2B Pitches That Win

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While many PR practitioners are generalists, just as many specialize in industries where they fit comfortably. For me, that industry is high-tech — more specifically, business-to-business high-tech, where the editors are tough and the news moves as fast as the technology. If you think you're cut out for this hard-hitting environment, be sure you have tough skin, a fast pen, and superior coping skills. I've been doing this for about 10 years now, and I'd like to share what I know about pitches that win.

High-tech B2B pitches are a bit different from other pitches. That's because there is a wide range of publications that cover the same technology from completely different angles. Their audiences are usually specific to more than one industry, so while they may be high-tech focused, they can be other-industry focused as well (say, high-tech people in the banking industry or high-tech folks in the healthcare realm, for example).

That said, your pitches need to be as specific as the publications you're pitching. To accomplish this level of specificity, you need to know your client's or company's technology cold, and you must do your homework on every publication that you're pitching. If you don't, you'll be quite embarrassed when an editor says, "So, how does that educate my audience?" and you have no idea. Know the technology, know the media, and know the audience, but most of all, know how to answer that question convincingly.

Another factor to keep in mind is timing. As with PR in any industry, timing is everything. In this industry, great timing is based on knowing what to pitch and when, how to pitch your story to specific editors, and the follow-up tactics that win your clients everything from mentions to covers. Know, too, that winning pitches start with the editorial calendar and end with the follow-up call. To win placement, be prepared to do the legwork from beginning to end.

The beginning of the pitch cycle starts at the end of each year. That's when I research the editorial calendars of target publications in my company's area of expertise. (If you work at an agency, you'll do the same for each of your clients.) If you don't already have a targeted pitch list, develop one.

Everyone works differently, but I develop my pitch list by going to the editorial calendars of my target publications and websites (right now, my editorial list is at about 90) and printing those edcals out. I then go through each one individually, highlighting upcoming articles, sections, award opportunities, product reviews — anything I think might even remotely apply. Then I open a spreadsheet and begin entering data. My headings are pretty simple:
  • Target Pitch Date
  • Publication
  • Topic
  • Issues (the date the publication issues or the site will feature that topic)
  • The Pitch (here I remind myself of the angle I'm pitching)
And then I fill in the information.

Okay, so now you know what you need to pitch and when. The next thing to know is how to pitch. To know that, you will have read the publication or visited the site to peruse it from the audience's point of view. You'll know exactly how this particular publication talks to its audience. Once you know that, you can make your pitch a quick and easy read, and that's what works. I don't think editors in any industry have a lot of time, but in high-tech, they have no time and often very little patience. I don't blame them for that. They're busy. I get it. And to prove that I get it, I keep my pitches short and to the point.

My initial pitch is usually sent via email. The "Re:" line specifically states what I'm writing about. It might say something like "Resource for your security-focused November issue," for example. It will definitely say something that lets the editor know that the email contains a targeted pitch and that I know what I'm talking about. Randomly mass emailing just doesn't fly in high-tech, so be targeted and be clear.

Now that I've gotten the editor's attention, the body of the pitch is short as well. It consists of four to five sentences at most, a few bullet points, my contact information, and a "thank you for your time." That's it. If you can't synopsize what you're pitching in that amount of time and space, you probably haven't educated yourself enough. Go back and do it again. Brevity will pay off in the long run. Next, wait a few days and follow up with a telephone call.

During the follow-up call, always ask if you're calling at a good time. Editors often don't like hearing from PR folks, but without us, they'd have a lot less to write about. So if the editor says that it's not a good time, ask when would be better and call back then. Once you have that person's attention, it's imperative that you listen as much as you talk. Explain that you're following up on a pitch you sent regarding the — in this case — November issue and that you're just checking in to determine whether your resource might be a good fit.

If the editor thinks it will work, he or she will say so. If the editor doesn't think it will work, he or she will let you know that, too. Whatever you do, don't try to bully the editor into using your resource. You'll need to come back to this person again and again, and you want to keep the relationship on good terms. Respect that the person heading up the publication or writing the article knows what he or she is doing and move on, leaving a pleasant "thanks, maybe another time" to close the conversation.

And that's it. Perfect the art of pitching, and great placements follow. Feel free to contact me at scole@mindbridge.com with any questions.

Sue Cole is director of marcom at Mindbridge Software.
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