by Steve Aedy
Whether you’re pitching a guest post to an editor, looking for funding, or just asking someone to review your product or service, writing a good pitch letter is the first step to closing the deal.
There are a million ways to get pitch letters wrong. Pay careful attention to the language and tone of your message. Don’t be gimmicky or too technical and stiff. Use simple language that’s just enough to get your point across. And make sure to do some research on the organization or blog you’re writing to. What’s their mission statement? What’s their slogan? What are they selling? Who’s their audience? When writing your pitch, tailor your words, so that it’s easier for them to accept you if you’re a good fit.
Remember that pitch letters are not press releases or cover letters. They have their own distinct purpose and flow. A good one will capture the spirit of your idea as well as demonstrate the exceptionality of your startup and your professional credentials. It should leave the editor or investor with a sense of confidence in your knowledge and ability to execute your project.
Here’s a dissection of a good pitch letter:
Know who you’re addressing. Look up the editor or resources manager of the organization you’re writing to and address them by name: “Dear Mr. Johnson”. Writing “To Whom It May Concern” screams mass pitch which means you haven’t researched much about the company, blog or magazine. If you haven’t put in the time to learn about them, why should they spend the time finding out about you? Doing the research to address the right person is the minimum you can do to show you want this gig.
1st Paragraph: The Lede/Hook
The most important part of the entire pitch letter is the lede/hook. If you don’t nail this, chances are the recipient won’t read any further. It has to grab their attention, provoke their curiosity and instill a sense of confidence in you. It’s a short paragraph that gives them a piece of information that’s new and interesting. It should introduce the context of your idea. Within this paragraph, you should include the lede/hook. Think about headlines, slogans, ad campaigns. The lede/hook should be a short sentence that captures the essence of what you’re writing about or selling.
2nd Paragraph: Why Does Your Product/Idea Matter?
Editors and investors want to make a good investment. They want something that will make them money and make them look good. You have to convince them that what you’re offering will do just that. In this section of your pitch letter, you should answer the following questions:
- Why is it important?
- Why is it important NOW?
The better you can articulate not only the worth but the timeliness of your idea or product, the better your chances at getting the gig. Having a great idea or product is only half the battle. Why is it important in the time/environment/economy we’re living in today? If you can convince the editor or potential investor that you’re a step ahead on a breaking trend, you’re in.
3rd Paragraph: The Nuts and Bolts
What do you need to accomplish your goal? If you’re writing a post, do you have access to credible resources? Do you need to conduct interviews or have you already done that? If you’re seeking funding for a product or a project, what do you realistically need to get it up and running? How did you come to those conclusions? Summarize the research you’ve done. Talk both conceptually and specifically. After all, numbers and statistics are the language of business.
4th Paragraph: Show Them Your Legwork
If you’re proposing your expert opinion, how long will your article be? Make sure you’ve done your research. Don’t propose a 1,000 word post to a blog that generally publishes 600 word posts. Do you have your own photographs to include? Access to photographs matters a lot to editors so be sure to mention them if you have them.
If you’re proposing a startup or selling a product, do you have a sample or a demonstration that can be shown in a meeting? Do you have any statistics that help sell your product? Be as specific as possible, but remember it’s not a business plan, it’s a pitch. Be succinct. And be aware that it’s much more likely to get promoted when most of the legwork has been done already.
5th Paragraph: Show Them Your Creds
Now is the time when you provide your bio. What are your credentials? Why should they trust you to successfully deliver the result promised? Do you have portfolio / other featured works / published articles? Have you developed any other apps or successfully sold any other products before? Include a link to your website. If you’re green, don’t confess to it. Let them ask for your credentials first. By that time, you may have already managed to sell them on the idea and it won’t matter.
6th Paragraph: Closing
Write a brief “Thank you for your time” sentence. Leave your contact information, cell phone, website, email, etc. Then wait to hear back. Two weeks is the standard grace period for replies. If you don’t hear back within that time, send a follow-up email.
If you’ve done your research and written a good pitch that speaks to the values of the blog or company you’re pitching to, you should stand a good chance. Don’t wait around for replies, however. Keep sending out pitches. The more you write, the better you’ll get at them and the better chance you have at landing a gig. So, go ahead and good luck!
Steve Aedy is blogger, writing expert at FreshEssays.com and contributor to Lifehack, Socialnomics and others. Steve writes about blogging tricks, social media, novel writing and education. Contact him via Twitter or G+.
Nicola Sapiens De Mitri | Courtesy of Steve Aedy