Photo: Xavier Di Petta
This morning when I opened my work email, there were about 600 unread messages.Near the top of the stack was an email from a mysterious person named Xavier. I had never heard of him before. More mysteriously, his email was titled, “Article.”
Intrigued, I clicked. The message was brief:
I’ll get straight to the point. I’ve seen several articles on entrepreneurs you’ve done, love them, and was curious if you would be interested in doing a story on me. Today a profile about me was published in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, WA Today, Canberra Times & Brisbane Times. Last time I spoke with the journalist, it has been viewed more than 180,000 times. All feedback I’ve read about the story has been very positive. I’ve had offers from several newspapers, television stations and radios but I’d love nothing more than to be featured on business insider. Let me know your thoughts. Cheers!
Xavier Di Petta
My response: “Impressive. When are you free to hop on a call?”
Other reporters probably have other pitch preferences. But here’s why Xavier’s message worked for me:
1. The headline was perfect. It was short (easy to skim) and mysterious. Titling it “Article” made me think it might be about something personal. I assumed it was a reader’s feedback on a post I wrote, and I always read things like that.
Even though Xavier’s email was more of a pitch, I didn’t feel hoodwinked. The email mentioned articles I’ve written, but more importantly it featured articles about him. It wasn’t bait-and-switch, the email really was about “Articles.”
2. The message was short and direct. Xavier’s first line was strong and captivating. It was also courteous: “I’ll get straight to the point.” He knows reporters get a lot of emails, and he’s aware they don’t have time or patience to read lengthy, round-about messages from strange people.
3. It was branded. When a startup or person isn’t well known, they need to make it instantly clear why their story is worth a writer’s time. This can be most easily done by name-dropping big brand names who support you, such as Y Combinator or Fred Wilson, in a pitch. In this case, the big brands were other publications, like The Syndey Morning Herald.
Sometimes using other publications in a press pitch can backfire. If he had said, “I’ve been written up in TechCrunch, PandoDaily and The Verge,” I’d be less likely to write about it; we share a lot of readers. Instead he named Australian publications, which indicates to me that he hasn’t had much US press yet. Bringing a buzzy abroad story to Business Insider readers, though, works.
4. There is actually an interesting story to tell. There are a lot of people pitching non-stories. Or they might be stories to someone, but they’re certainly not stories to me. If I can’t figure out what’s interesting about you or your startup, there’s no way I can write something interesting for a reader.
When I clicked on The Sydney Morning Herald article, I was sold. The headline read, “Just an everyday $50K-a-month teen.” That’s impressive. I wanted to learn how he did it, and I bet BI readers would like to learn too. It’s also right in my wheelhouse.
That said, his pitch could have been even stronger. Di Petta mentioned another journalist who got 180,000 pageviews for writing about him. That’s a detail I didn’t need. I’d rather be the one getting 180,000 pageviews by bringing a story to light; I don’t want to feel like the good story has already been told.
He could have thrown out other strong numbers instead. (Numbers stand out more than text, whether they appear in headlines, tweets or resumes). Di Petta didn’t mention anything about generating $50,000 per month in his email, or the fact that he’s so young he had to ask his dad’s permission before agreeing to let me publish the above email on BI. I actually liked that he didn’t oversell his age though. It makes him seen more confident, like age isn’t what defines him (Although it can make for a catchy BI headline — you’re reading this, right?).
Regardless, I’m already impressed with Di Petta, and I’m looking forward to catching up with the wunderkind on Thursday.
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