Rock The Pitch #7:  The Anti-Facepalm Formula

Rock The Pitch #7:
The Anti-Facepalm Formula

Today’s GOOD(!) PITCH submission comes from Lindsay Bell, the fabuloso content director over at Spin Sucks. Why did she like it? It was humanized… and relevant.

There is a certain irony that, as PR professionals who earn a living based on our pitching skills, our own industry blogs are smothered with a constant deluge of bad pitches. You’d think the difficult part would be picking from so many GOOD ones and that all are relevant but, alas, that is SO not the case.

I’m not convinced it is related so much to PR pros, though, as it is the fact that so many MARKETING generalists (and entrepreneurs) are taking on PR with little or no PR-specific training.

If this isn’t the case, please, I’m begging you. Don’t burst my delusional bubble. It would just be too darn depressing.

(Names and email content used in this post are included with permission from both the original sender and the publisher, lest you think I’m doing something sneaky.)


On Jul 24, 2014, at 8:42 AM, John Larkin (kudos, John!) wrote:

Hey Lindsay, 

My name is John Larkin, from PropelAd. We make software that helps eCommerce stores advertise and retarget to people on Facebook. We also run a popular eCommerce marketing blog. It features unique, inhouse, longform content about three times a week on all facets of eCommerce marketing. 

I personally have spoken at a number of Facebook Advertising conferences and events, as well as eCommerce meetups, Startup events, and an occasional podcast. All on the topic of Facebook advertising, and how to make the most from it. 

I would love the opportunity to guest post on your blog, not for link building purposes but to help raise a bit of awareness of our own blog which we work really hard at. I would be delighted to write an in-depth article about Facebook that your audience would find really useful & hopefully interesting! I would also engage with them in the comments after the fact. 

What do you think, is this an opportunity we could explore?

Thanks in advance!


This isn’t the best pitch I’ve ever seen – it doesn’t even include any specific post ideas – but it was honest, it included a decent amount of information and it won Lindsay’s attention. These days, that’s a feat in itself, right?

Using a similar formula for your own pitches won’t cause any facepalm moments.

I like that he showcased his experience, was honest about why he wanted to write a guest post and was specific about his topical areas of expertise.

What I didn’t care for is that he felt it necessary to mention he wasn’t doing it for linkbuilding. It’s like a coming home to a child that quickly tells you he didn’t eat the last cupcake when frosting is smeared around his mouth. I find those who feel the need to mention it are the very ones who are thinking of it the most. Anyway, who cares if someone wants a link? As long as the content is fabulous, nobody cares if you want the link.

Kudos in a major way for saying his main goal was to build awareness of his blog, however. Well-said and nicely honest.

I also thought he probably could have eliminated many emails back and forth if he included specific headline ideas in his very first email. Publishers are busy. Make it easy on them. 

Here’s her response…

Hi John, 

First, let me say what a refreshing pitch this was. ;) Kudos for actually being a human being!

Second, I want to connect you with Jess Ostroff (cc’ed here). Jess is the powerhouse who deals with our guest bloggers. She can work with you on your post, and answer any questions you might have.

Great to meet you. I’ll let the two of you take it from here!  

Cheers, LB

Whoot! His pitch worked. In a side email, Lindsay mentioned one of the biggest selling points in his pitch was his remark about engaging with readers in the comments after is post ran. HIgh five, John!

He then wrapped it up with this last email, before shifting the conversation over to Jess.

Thanks Lindsay, 

The verdict is still out whether or not I am human hah :) 

Jess, could you send me on any guest posting criteria & guidelines you may have? Also, any preference as to what type of post I might write? Happy to write about a broad range of topics, anything to do with Facebook marketing or eCommerce / small business marketing in general. 



His questions are good ones, but earn him a slap on the wrist for asking something already on the Spin Sucks website.

That’s it for this critique. What do you think of John’s pitch? If I see a post show up on Spin Sucks with his name on it, I’ll share it in the comments so you can see the end result.

If you want to pitch Lindsay for a guest post on Spin Sucks, don’t forget to check out those guidelines first and be familiar with her audience. If you REALLY want to win her heart, make sure you are subscribed, then join the SS community by posting comments for a few weeks before you pitch her. She might even send you cupcakes.

Don’t forget to email me if you have a pitch to submit for an upcoming column!

PR Metrics Deconfuzzled.

PR Metrics Deconfuzzled.

For many people, PR metrics leave them completely confuzzled. Bamboozled. Too confused to see straight. Giving up before they even begin.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The trick is to focus on metrics at THE BEGINNING of your campaign, project or initiative – not the end.

What end goal do you want to accomplish? What action do you want the reader or viewer to take?  Think it through and track that.

Create your content or campaign with your end goal in mind and figure out a metric that works.

Integrating metrics doesn’t have to be done at a complicated, cross-departmental, c-suite level. (Well, unless you are a CMO, of course…) It is okay to either work with a supervisor to define goals and critical metrics and/or use a level of metrics that commensurates with your scope of work and skill level.

PR Metrics: You've GOT THIS.

It can be as simple as pointing a SlideShare document, guest blog post or byline article to a specific website page, then monitoring traffic to that page. Or creating content that points to a “subscribe now” button, then looking at how many new subscribers you end up with. Or looking at the percentage of website referral traffic coming from specific social media platforms or editorial placements using Google Analytics. Or launching content and conversations tied to a specific hashtag. These are all great places to begin.

What IT CAN’T BE, is determined after the fact. It’s a thousand times more difficult. Successfully implementing metrics that deliver value long-term require discussion and strategic thinking from the very beginning.   [Read more...]

Rock The Pitch #6: Will You Keep Me In Mind For Next Time?

Rock The Pitch #6: Will You Keep Me In Mind For Next Time?

An EPIC tweet was sent by a deputy tech editor at the New York Times yesterday afternoon… shared by the delightful Maura Lafferty (follow her at @mlaffs).

Are you peeing your pants with laughter, or cringing in guilty embarrassment?

Read on; there’s more.

I’m guessing if Quentin bothered to answer Mark’s last question, it would be a resounding “YES.”   [Read more...]

Pitching Big Bug Creek

Pitching Big Bug Creek

Community Newspapers & Small Town Media Relations

Whizzing down the Interstate 17 highway on my way home, I just flashed past a sign for Big Bug Creek. Two seconds later, it was gone.

I’d venture a guess that this small community has less than five hundred residents. It’s one of those “blink and you miss it” towns with a fascinating history dating back to the Gold Rush era, Daniel Boone and a “Battle of Big Bug” skirmish between miners and Apache Indians. There is even a connection to cannibalism, since the founder’s father actually traveled with the Donner Party. It isn’t clear if he was a survivor of that snowed in winter or if the timing was mercifully off. Let’s hope the latter.

Did you know that more than half of the Donner Party survived? I didn’t.

Forty-eight people staggered out of the Sierra Nevada’s that Spring, rescued FOUR MONTHS after being snowbound. It wasn’t one family in a cave, as I’ve always imagined it; the nightmare started with 87 people.


… Back to Big Bug Creek. Abandoned in 1910 and now considered a ghost town, a few families still live there. (The older I get, the more appealing a tiny town like this becomes!) Thinking about living in a small town like this one naturally makes my mind turn to small town media.

Big Bug Creek might be small, but it is large enough to support a community newspaper: Big Bug News.

How many times as a new PR pro did I include that poor editor in my mass blastings of press releases? Probably more than once. Ack. It sticks in my throat like a bad hairball. Since my training was nonexistent, I wouldn’t have known any better.

[Read more...]

Rock The Pitch #5: The New Product Launch

Rock The Pitch #5:
The New Product Launch

A friend of mine – we’ll call him Harzog The Bold – runs a technology blog out of New York City. When I asked him for samples of good or bad pitches, he was only too happy to spend a few minutes searching his inbox. This is what he came up with.

As I see more and more pitches come across my desk for this blog column, it’s interesting to see common trends begin to emerge, in terms of gaps and processes.

One of the most frequent mistakes is confusing content from a press release as a pitch. Journalists and publicists alike do it.

They aren’t the same thing. 

Why? Because a pitch takes a piece of news, such as a product launch, but repackages it as a customized story for a specific publication and journalist. It isn’t about resending the same thing they’ve already dismissed as uninteresting; it’s creating a new story based on your news.

This is different from using email to distribute a press release. Nobody expects a press release to be customized, right?

Here is the pitch Harzog The Not-So-Meek sent me.   [Read more...]

Public Relations, Steampunk Style

Public Relations, Steampunk Style

My son turns eighteen tomorrow and I’m not sure if I’m more horrified or thrilled.

Equal parts of each, I guess. My empty nest is looming like a tsunami but I’m completely delighted with the adult he is becoming. My talented daughter isn’t far behind.

These pictures are from our little celebration last night. Since I hardly ever get time with him lately, I grabbed him on the fly when he strolled into the house to raid my fridge and turned a quick trip to Sonic for tater tots into a party.

The photos tell the story perfectly if you look at them in reverse, right to left. The first one is my son completely embarrassed (yet secretly thrilled) at the brouhaha when I made him wear a giant, puffy birthday cake hat.

Yup, that’s a birthday candle stuck into his burger.

My gift was a fabulous steampunk hat that I discovered in Prescott, AZ last weekend. He’s wearing it in the next three pictures. Can’t you see him on stage, wearing it and playing his bass guitar? I can.

What is steampunk? Wikipedia says it well. “Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century. Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West”, in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.”

Translated – it’s a creative blend of victorian and western clothing with found objects such as old pocket watches, bullet casings, skeleton keys and more.

Think of steampunk as the love child of Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock and Lady Gaga. It’s fantastic. (tweet this)


Example of a steampunker. CC photo credit: Alexander Schlesier

He’s been lusting over steampunk guitar modifications and clothing for over a year now, and once I recovered from sticker shock, I simply had to buy the hat.

It was so perfectly, totally Adam and I could easily visualize him on stage with his band wearing it as his signature look.

I think my debit card is still smoking from that transaction, but the stunned delight on his face when he opened the box made it worth every single penny.

You only turn eighteen once, right?

Public Relations is a bit like steampunk.  (tweet this) 

[Read more...]

A Delicious Facebook Brand Page Case Study: Smash Cakery

A Delicious Facebook Brand Page Case Study: Smash Cakery

I love cake. Who doesn’t? And it’s the perfect business to grow organically via Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest – the three social media platforms best suited to drool-inspiring photography.

With almost 14,000 likes, this small business in Texas is clearly doing something right with their Facebook pa ge.

And the best part? It’s for a home-based business operating under the Texas Cottage Food Law. I love that!

Since the owner is completely booked out for almost two months in advance, according to a post early this summer, I think it’s safe to say that her Facebook strategy is working.

Don’t get caught up in the number of likes – since everyone likes cake and admiring the creative ones, there is a natural advantage built in to help boost page popularity. It also helps engagement, since women love to enjoy cake without calories and comment on the design.

It’s simply too fun NOT to leave a comment behind, right?

Let’s take a look.   [Read more...]

Five Digital Tactics That Would Bring Fresh Life To PRSA

Five Digital Tactics That Would Bring Fresh Life To PRSA


I love public relations. Passionately. Yet, as annual fees come due for my Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) membership, I’m wrestling with the decision to renew. Since it is a fairly big spend for a solo practitioner, I’m leaning towards channeling that $440 in another direction.

Public Relations Society of AmericaI’ve been a member in the past as part of agency memberships, but expectations change when it’s your own dollar being spent on dues. This last year was the first time I’d paid the dues out of my own pocket and I have to say that I’ve been disappointed.

As an organization, PRSA is falling further and further behind. In my opinion, it needs a massive infusion of fresh thinking and digital strategy to give it new life. It needs to become nimble.

To keep up with changes in the profession and play a visible, engaged role in the industry, I have some ideas on a few major gaps that need to be addressed. Add yours in the comments!

[Read more...]

Lost Friendships and Lost Customers

Lost Friendships and Lost Customers

Sitting with a parent as they fade away is one of life’s more difficult moments. It makes you think about what matters and what doesn’t.

My father is failing quickly after a five-year fight with glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive brain cancer with a 100% fatality rate. He’s losing the battle but is leaving this life surrounded by love and nothing left unsaid. I think we can’t ask for much more than that and I’m grateful.

FYI: To spend more time with my dad at the hospice facility, there will not be a Rock The Pitch post this Friday.

Because of a few things I’ve shared on Facebook about what is happening in my personal life this week with Dad (a huge thanks to those who have shared support!), I heard from a long-ago BFF today on Facebook. Friends who met in college, we shared a deep love of horses and similar timing in falling OFF said horses when jumping a course in our final exams for a riding class. I was the one who made her laugh through the pain as the doctor stitched up her butt (she fell on a metal cup that holds up the cross rail). I wish she were helping me laugh through my pain today.

Once we left college and started our lives as adults, she joined the military to fight for our freedom, then we both had children. We didn’t try hard enough to talk about what really matters over the years, so the friendship became superficial and faded away.

She only realized it today, but I had unfriended her almost three years ago. The unfriending was a passive-aggressive way to lash out, I think. My son had almost died and I needed her, but she just wasn’t there. I gave up. Since I had reached out many times over years prior with no response, then she stopped returning my calls for years at a time, I gave up. I was hurt  and I mentally walked away from a twenty-some year old friendship.

Perhaps the fact that she only realized it today is telling, since I did it years ago, but her hurt reaction made me stop and think.

Was it my fault? Did I try hard enough?

Or did I blame her lack of response on the failure, when perhaps I wasn’t there for her before that point and never even realized it.

Agency-Client Communication

Customers can be like that. Sometimes, the relationship is lost and the easy solution is to blame them for being difficult or stubborn. But the road goes both ways and if fingers are pointed, they usually should point both directions. But it’s easier to blame than accept responsibility, and use it to drive change.

[Read more...]

Rock The Pitch #4: The Guest Blog Pitch

Rock The Pitch #4: The Guest Blog Pitch

It doesn’t matter how large or small the audience…. If you have a blog, you get pitched. It’s part of the game. Some are hilariously bad, some are passable and some are excellent. Sadly, the bad ones seem to FAR outnumber the good, or even the lukewarm.

Take this one, for example. It’s clearly from a novice trying to earn a backlink; something that is all too common.


This email landed in my own inbox this week. Lucky me.

From:<we’ll just say she is jane doe>

To: Carrie Morgan
Subject: Request for Guest Posting at

I am really satisfied with your blog content, your posts are really good and you are keeping it well. I would like to publish my post on your blog (as guest post) with my website link in author bio. Please let me know if you are recognizing guest posts and I’m ready to discuss my content, I guarantee it with unique and quality content.

Looking forward to get your reply.

Thank You,
<name removed to protect the not-so-innocent>

I have to admit that having my own blog has been a remarkable gift in many ways. It’s taught me more about both sides of blogging than ANY amount of media pitching and guest posting for clients ever taught me. It’s been completely invaluable as a learning tool. I’ve learned perspective from the blogger side and how it directly connects to lessons learned on the PR side, chasing down guest post opportunities for clients.

But whether or not you are a blogger or a chaser, I think you can guess where my feedback might be headed with this one.   [Read more...]