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PR, Pitches and Editors: The Key to Unlocking The Biggest Audiences




Andy Crestodina: Welcome everybody to the latest edition of the SEMrush Influencer Marketing Webinar. I'm Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media. Today we'll be interviewing Lisa Jenkins from Social Media Examiner.

Lisa still took time out of her day to chat with us about her experience as an editor, about how she works with influencers, about how she gets pitched, good and bad. We're going to get a lot of practical stuff out of this today.

We can go back and tell the first story. Lisa was reminding me where we first met, which is another kind of example of marketing, and networking, and branding, personal branding, and influencer marketing. Going back to way before we used that term.

If influencer marketing is about working with someone else who can amplify your message, and increasing your reach, then you could imagine why we're talking to Lisa.

What you're going to hear from Lisa in a minute is that when Lisa gets pitched, she goes and looks up the person who's pitching her. So the cornerstone, one of the absolutely critical aspects of influencer marketing is to make sure that you look good online, that your profiles are polished.

Why You Should Google Your Own Name

People rarely Google themselves, even though people search for people all day long. If you're doing any kind of outreach, any kind of blogger relations, digital PR, influencer marketing, and you're pitching someone, then it's going to be three seconds before they're looking you up. I don't really care what industry you're in.

To control your personal brand, to do personal SEO, because you are getting searched for the moment you send an email to Lisa or any editor, you really should be paying attention to the search results, the SERP for your name.


If you have a company website that doesn't have a page per person, instead, like when you click on a person you kind of get like a tab, that's a giant SEO disadvantage, because Google doesn't rank websites, Google ranks web pages.

For that headshot, please, make it a professional headshot. Then you can use color to stand out. What color are the social media networks? Facebook and LinkedIn are blue. What color contrasts with blue? Orange.

This is my friend David Fisher, who has a sparkling LinkedIn profile because he asks people for recommendations. Ask people for recommendations. If you're trying to get endorsements, stick your neck out a little bit, and ask for a recommendation. It's going to make a difference.


You're trying to make that sparkle. Because in the end, you're pitching to Lisa or someone like Lisa, and she's going to look you up. Let's polish those personal profiles.

That's a foundational, fundamental thing that you need to do if you're doing any kind of guest blogging, PR, blogger relations, influencer marketing. That's where we, starting out there.


The first point here is that if you're doing outreach, and PR, and pitching an editor, we should keep in mind that this is someone who may be getting lots of pitches.

Lisa Jenkins: Yeah.

Andy Crestodina: That creates challenges.

Examples of Bad and Irrelevant Pitches

Lisa Jenkins: It creates challenges, and it's time-consuming, and it's frustrating when I'm getting a cold pitch. I don't mind a cold pitch, but it's frustrating to me when somebody takes up my time with a pitch that in no way relates to anything that we publish on our blog.

Andy Crestodina: It's Social Media Examiner, can you give me an example of kind of like an irrelevant pitch?

Lisa Jenkins: Yes. I had a guy who wanted to write an article on how to install fire suppression systems in an office building, because that had to do with business and business related to social media marketing, and therefore my readers needed to understand how to install a fire suppression system.

Andy Crestodina: That is crazy. Rule number one, and I hope we've talked about this a bit on this show before, but hopefully people understand, do your research, and relevance is what the editor is looking for, right?

Lisa Jenkins: Yes. It's not so much about me, it's about my readers. I am fiercely protective of my readers, and I honor their time, and I understand that they give me 15 minutes out of their day to read an entire page on my blog.

Andy Crestodina: Well, if your massive reach and growing audience is any evidence, you've done a very good job of protecting that audience.

Lisa Jenkins: Thank you.

Andy Crestodina: From irrelevant pitches, what you just said, I think it is really important. You are fiercely protective of your readers. If someone pitching you just wants to align themselves with your needs, all they have to do is to think of that too. To honor the reader's attention, and be just as protective of the reader's time as you are.

Lisa Jenkins: Yes. Yeah, because at the end of the day ... Oh wow, I just said that phrase. At the end of the day, that's really all that matters, is the fact that readers get what they want so that they will come back. Because if you don't come back to my blog, even if I do publish you again, no one's going to read it, because no one's coming back.

Andy Crestodina: Relevance. If you're pitching someone, put yourselves in the shoes of the editor for a few minutes and ask yourself if this is really worth it, if this is really relevant, if this would get engagement.

Because what you should be trying to do, I mean, like I said in search your goal is to make the best page on the internet for the topic. If you're pitching an editor, your goal is you want them to accept it and for it to be the top performing post on that blog that month or that year.

Lisa Jenkins: It's really important if you're going to pitch somebody that you take the time to understand who you need to pitch. You know, Erik Fisher is the manager of our social team, and he is amazing, but he is incredibly busy managing social media for Social Media Examiner. He has zero sway in editorial. That's not his job. It's not his wheelhouse. He doesn't work here.

We will get people who will email Eric or tweet Eric, and then they'll email Mike, and then they'll email Emily Crume, who is our director of strategy. Then they'll email Phil, who is our director of events for Social Media Marketing World. None of those people will email me.

Andy Crestodina: It's not helpful if I want to write for someone, it's not helpful to find every person I can possibly find at that company and email them all?

Lisa Jenkins: Oddly, the spam thing does not work.

Andy Crestodina: It's not the number, it's quality over quantity. You're not just supposed to spray pitches at anyone who has that email address.

Lisa Jenkins: Yeah. Take the time to figure out who I am. I mean, it's not difficult. If you google “Social Media Examiner editor”, or “Social Media Examiner managing editor”, you will find my name. That's all you need to do. Just be responsible. Know who you're pitching, and then understand what I'm looking for, which is showcased on my blog every day.

Following Up With Editors

Andy Crestodina: Yeah. It makes perfect sense. We've got a quick question coming in from Alexis Feinberg, who asks, "What if you've done your research, you've sent a pitch that fits their content, but you haven't heard back?" Lisa, how would you like someone to follow up with you?

Lisa Jenkins: Okay. On our blog, I have a policy written out that says, "Once you pitch me, I will respond to you within seven to ten days. That's the rule, and I work very hard to make that happen. I do look through every single pitch myself.

That said, email and tech sometimes go awry. Even though I have a really good system setup, and Gmail and our hosted email work really pretty well, sometimes for some reason there are senders that I've even got in my contacts list, and their emails will go directly to spam. I don't see them.

I don't think there's anything wrong, after like a 10 day to two week period, in coming back to me and saying, "Hey, I pitched you on X day. Here's what I talked about. I haven't heard anything back. If this isn't a good fit for you, great. If not, how can we move forward?" I respect that.

Andy Crestodina: I'm not sure that every cold email deserves a response. I mean, people writing about fire suppression, or if it looks like a robot with no research involved, form submission spam. You're being really nice.

Lisa Jenkins: I also think too, within that, that whichever channel you pitched on is where you should follow up. Do not start pitching through email, and then stalk somebody to LinkedIn because they didn't answer you in 24 hours.

Andy Crestodina: I see. That makes sense.

Lisa Jenkins: Yeah, and don't spam their Twitter stream. Wherever you've connected with them, and wherever you've pitched, that's where you need to do your follow up.

The Hallmarks of a Good Pitch

Andy Crestodina: Yeah. What about the pitch itself? You said research, they know who you are. What are the hallmarks of a good pitch?

Lisa Jenkins: A good pitch gives me a working title, and a description, and an outline, with any tools or tactics that you're going to highlight. Now I'm not asking for a full-blown article skeleton.  

What I do want to know is, what are you going to write about? Are you going to be able to deliver on the promise of that title? Don't say, "Eight hacks for Twitter." Then your first hack is to make sure you have a complete bio. That's not a hack. That's common sense.

Occasionally I'll come back and say, "Hey, as you've outlined this, this isn't going to work for us. However, have you considered threading it this way, and is that something you're interested in working with?"

Andy Crestodina: Yeah. Do you publish guidelines?

Lisa Jenkins: If you go to socialmediaexaminer.com/writers, there is a page there that explains to you what I'm looking for, who I'm looking for, and who I'm not looking for and why that doesn't work for us. We're very clear about it. Those are fairly basic guidelines.

Andy Crestodina: Is it obvious in the pitch if someone has not read the guidelines?

Lisa Jenkins: So obvious, yes. It's incredibly obvious, mostly due to word count. Our minimum word count is 2000 words, and so when you deliver an article to me that is 678 words, I feel like you maybe didn't read what you signed.

Andy Crestodina: Yeah. That they didn't do their homework.

Lisa Jenkins: Yeah, and I make it very easy. It's not a complicated document. Don't provide links back to gated content on your site. Please make sure your images fit these specs. Don't talk about anybody that you're an affiliate for.

Andy Crestodina: Let's touch on that. There has to be an exchange of value. There's obviously lots of exposure value for simply writing and having a byline, or putting any content on Social Media Examiner, on any blog. Is there a tension for the writer in self-promotion, or to what extent can they expect to get direct value from this?

Lisa Jenkins: Okay. On Social Media Examiner, if you in any way benefit from mentioning a product, tool or service, you can't mention that product, tool or service in an article that you write for us.

That's the first thing that is usually an issue for people who are like content writers, or copywriters. Because that's what they do, they make their living writing content about a client and getting it published.

When it gets back to social media marketers, which is who I prefer to work with because they are in the trenches and they do understand the hacks and how to use the tools, and how to shorten the time frame that it takes to do something.

They are allowed one link back to a blog post on their own website. It has to be a blog post that informs our audience further on the topic at hand. It can't be gated content. We do provide that one link back.

Then there are opportunities for two link backs in their bio. Their name links back to any domain they choose. It can go back to your LinkedIn profile, or your full domain. Then you can put a gated content piece in your bio.

Andy Crestodina: I think that's strong, because it's clear, and you just tell people that's what the rules are. Knowing that we're in SEMrush here, there's a lot of search optimization people who will be attending, and who are listening knowing the value of links, and thinking of guest blogging as link building, and seeking to grow the authority of their own site or their client's.

I assume you see submissions that are filled with links to companies or have links to sales pages, or links to gated content, or home pages.

Lisa Jenkins: Yeah. You know, it has to be a give and a take. It has to be a win for me and it has to be a win for the writer. I understand that there has to be an exchange of value, but what's really important about Social Media Examiner publications is that our audience knows and trusts that they aren't be pitched by someone with an agenda when they're reading an article.

They know that that tool is something that they use every day in their own hands-on work. That's why a mention in an article from our site is worth so much. We don't do advertorial, and we don't do sponsored posts.

Andy Crestodina: Yeah. Something else that I've discovered, and that you link to all the time, and that a lot of the blogs link to all the time, is research. Anybody that publishes original research has a stronger chance of having their content be sourced, and cited, and linked to.

The Value of Original Research

Just as a general format, I think it makes sense if you're trying to earn authority, to publish something original on your site. You guys have a publishing strategy that has a strong anchor piece. Can you tell us about your research and what it's done for the visibility and authority of Social Media Examiner?

Lisa Jenkins: Yeah. Once a year we run the Social Media Marketing Industry Report. We collect data, and then we take two or three months, and you do the same thing with your blogger's report. We just, we get a real feel across several industries who are all connected to marketing, on what they're going to do in the next year.

Then we use that to drive our content strategy. We use that to decide what speakers we're going to be serving up at the conference. Mike uses it as several waypoints in his strategic direction. We use that as a piece to link back to over and over and over.

Two years ago we did two reports. We did the Social Media Marketing Industry Report, and then we did a creator's report, where we were exploring looking at a new customer segment.

We published that once, and for various reasons, Mike chose to step away from that audience and to refocus on the people that we already know that we serve, and serve really, really well. Now we're back to just one a year. The new one will publish I believe in May.

Andy Crestodina: Well as an example, and I think people can keep this in mind, you can publish original research as one super strong piece a year. People will say, "I don't have time for that." Actually, you know, if you just plan it out and build it up and make it a big, it's a serious effort, so budget for it and take the time to do it. You don't have to do it every week or every month.

Andy Crestodina: There are lots of attendees with us today in all kinds of niches, and I would challenge them to consider how to create a major industry report in their niche.

Is there a shortcut? Is there anyone who jumps in line and goes to the front of your publishing calendar? Is there a type of pitch that has an advantage?

Lisa Jenkins: Yes. If you are one of the social media marketers who gets a very recent rollout of a platform update or access to a tool that is broadly used and there's a new feature in that tool. If you can use that access to provide a tutorial that will shorten the learning curve for my readers, for when they do get access to that, you're at the front every time.

Andy Crestodina: A scoop, they have information first, but still practicality. It's not just news.

I'm a big fan of sensitivity to formatting, paragraph length, bullet lists, internal links. Do you have guidelines for this, and is there a, do you find that the typical person pitching needs help constructing or assembling a piece that is easy to consume?

Lisa Jenkins: Yeah. It mostly just has to do with the fact that we have a very specific style on Social Media Examiner, that our readers have come to understand, and so they can very quickly look at an article and find, even if it's just one piece they're missing, they know how to find that piece. We do re-thread and reformat articles to fit that style. Occasionally it can be problematic for an article.

Andy Crestodina: That's a good segue into a question from Faith Warren. Lisa, would you like to read this one?

Lisa Jenkins: "If you believe your pitch has value, but it isn't accepted, what is an acceptable amount of time to wait to re-pitch with new content?" Yeah, that is a good segue.

Sometimes your pitch is valuable, it's just not a right fit for the publication that you're pitching. I'm always very careful when that happens to say, "This is a great article, but it's not a fit for us. Here's why it's not a fit for us. I think maybe you could publish this on this blog, have you contacted them?"

Try to move that forward. If I know that it would be a great fit for somebody, I'm happy to make that introduction and say, "Hey, I've got this article. Basically here's what it's about. Are you interested? Do you want me to introduce you to the writer?" I can pass it forward that way.

Automated Spam Pitching Won’t Get You Anywhere

Andy Crestodina: I think that a lot of pitches, people are building little robots that pitch.

Lisa Jenkins: Yes.

Andy Crestodina: They build robots that pitch, and it says, "Hi, I liked this page. I wrote an article about a similar thing. Would you like to see it?" This page link is like, I've seen them where it's like my contact form.

Lisa Jenkins: Yeah.

Andy Crestodina: "Hey, I really liked your contact page, I wrote something similar, will you publish it on your website?" It's a robot that just looked at our site and grabbed a URL, and put it in a thing, and it's auto form submission spam.

I think if they put in zero effort to communicate with me, I'm going to put in zero effort to respond to them. Let me be the devil to your angel and give the counterpoint that, if you're an editor, you do not have to do what Lisa does. You are free to delete spam email.

Lisa Jenkins: We're all looking for content, and we're all looking for good, strong content. If I can pass that on to somebody, I'm happy to do that.

Characteristics of a Good Bio

Andy Crestodina: We have another question. This one is from Hill Web Creations. The person says, "Lisa, can you talk more about the bios that you like?" That's a great question.

Lisa Jenkins: Bios that I like. I like to know that I'm reading about a person. I am interested in helping individual marketers write and publish on our site. As fantastic as your company is, I want to know about you and who you are.

Now if you go to my LinkedIn profile, things get a bit more professional, and you can see where I worked with travel and tourism businesses for 10 years. I like to see things like that, here's where I started, and here's how I got here. These are the things that I talk about. I'm very good at A, B, and C, versus generalist knowledge.

Everybody that I talk to is a social media consultant. That's the nature of my job, so when you say, "I'm a social media consultant." That doesn't help me understand that you are maybe incredibly gifted at targeting Instagram ads. That's specific knowledge that is very helpful to somebody who has never run an Instagram campaign, and I would absolutely be interested in working with you.

Even if your first two pitches aren't great, I work with and mentor several writers to the point where they are able to publish. I'm happy to do that. If your bio can communicate to me that you have some specific value, and actual experience, versus I'm 17 years old and I have a Facebook page, therefore I am a marketer. I'm happy to work with you on that. I just need to see you're a person.

Andy Crestodina: I have a friend who said that a good introduction for a speaker at a conference includes three true things and one weird thing.

Lisa Jenkins: That's good. Yeah. Be a person. Be a human. Show me that you are more than an automated social profile.

The other thing is, it sounds ridiculous, but I really need to see a LinkedIn profile, because that's often how I can tell you're real. Are you connected with people that I'm connected with? Have you spent time in this industry building up a body of work that I can research?

LinkedIn right now is one of the first places I start for that. It doesn't matter to me that you have maybe 50 connections. I'm very ungenerous on LinkedIn, I don't connect to everybody, so I understand keeping your community small, and with people that you've actually worked with. What I do want to see is a picture of your face in an orange sweater.

Andy Crestodina: LinkedIn is important too though because even if you aren't connected to a big brand, you can use LinkedIn as your place to publish. Someone like you could look at LinkedIn and find writing samples from that person, even if they're in a small town market in some distant country, and they're great.

Lisa Jenkins: Yeah. I don't need to see you published on five other ranking industry blogs. I need to know that the content that you are producing is valuable, is accurate, is technically accurate, and that you can back up what you're saying. That's all I need to see.

If you can do that, even if you've only been in this game for six months but you are some wunderkind, I will understand that and I will see it, and I am happy to work with you.

Andy Crestodina: What is Aaron (Orendorff)’s let's get rejected idea?

Lisa Jenkins: Yeah, he's got a #letsgetrejected. His deal was pitch, connect with people, pitch your work, get published, but part of getting published is getting rejected.

Your work isn't going to be a fit for everybody. It's not going to work every time you do it, but hey, you can't be afraid of it. Get rejected. It means you're putting in the work and you're putting in the time.

Andy Crestodina: I love it. There's a fearlessness. I mean, if you are expecting to have that outcome some of the time, it should reduce the barrier of reaching out.

Lisa Jenkins: Yeah, and there's nothing wrong, especially with hearing from me that you're not a fit for us. That's really all it means. It doesn't mean you're not smart. It doesn't mean that you're not a good writer. It just means you're not a fit for my readers. I have to keep their needs foremost.

Andy Crestodina: You are, so this is the unexpected part of this conversation. I knew that we'd be talking to an editor that is an expert at being an editor, the managing editor of Social Media Examiner, the biggest blog on its topic on the internet. That you would give us advice on how to pitch, and how to craft a good pitch, and what a pitch includes, and how not to do it.

What I didn't expect was to hear the grace and the kindness and the sensitivity that you have. I haven't talked to you in a long time. Really, really strong message of just kindness, and sensitivity, and trying to help people. It's extraordinary, and I'm taking that with me today, and I'm excited to see you on Friday.

Lisa Jenkins: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for having me, Andy. A, it's always a genuine pleasure to talk to you, and I'm just incredibly honored that SEMrush even wanted to talk to me.

Andy Crestodina: Sure.

Lisa Jenkins: If anybody in the chat has more questions, they are more than welcome to email me, lisa@socialmediaexaminer.com. Just tell me you were watching the webinar so I have some sort of context for who you are. I will answer any questions you have.

Andy Crestodina: If you pitch her, please pitch responsibly.

Lisa Jenkins: Yeah, do that.

Andy Crestodina: Thank you, everyone, for joining us. That was a wonderful hour. I wish we could hear the applause. There's applause and coffee all over the world right now, as people are showing gratitude from their desks.

Just as a reminder, there is a lot more good content coming up from SEMrush. If you go to SEMrush.com/webinars, you can find it all. Looking forward to seeing everyone next month. Lisa, I will see you in just a few days.

Lisa Jenkins: Okay. Bye, Andy. Bye, everyone.

Andy Crestodina: Thanks, everyone.


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