A friend of mine recently called and said she was about to draft a pitch promoting herself as a food expert to several broadcast outlets. She asked if I would take a look once she was done. Several days later, her email popped up. The subject? “This feels so weird.”
You don’t need to be a PR expert to know that it’s much easier to tout a product than it is to tout yourself. But if you’re just getting your company, business, or blog up and running, you likely don’t have the resources to recruit a full-time PR person or agency support. Which leaves the PRing (along with most other things!) to you.
As a PR professional who has happily pitched clients’ products and uncomfortably pitched my own brain, I can tell you: It doesn’t ever stop feeling weird. But it does get easier. If you’re struggling with how to promote yourself, keep these tips in mind.
1. Be Professional
Pitching yourself will likely evoke a whole spectrum of emotions, but when it comes to the actual pitch, keep it business-appropriate. Most importantly: Don’t be overly casual (or no one will take you seriously), don’t be too verbose (or no one will read your email), and don’t be rude, arrogant, or obnoxiously self-promotional.
This may sound obvious, but there’s an important differentiation between pitching yourself and pitching a product: When you’re pitching yourself, the booking producer not only needs to like what you have to say. He also needs to like you.
2. Back it Up
If you’re new on the speaking circuit or just looking to book your first interview, you’re going to need to really convince the booking producer or journalist that you’ve got the smarts they’re looking for. So beyond introducing yourself and your expertise, include relevant stats, articles, and anecdotes to support your narrative. Explain what differentiates your expertise from other people talking about a similar subject—maybe it’s the research you’ve recently conducted or the access you have to key influencers in the industry—as well as why your expertise is especially relevant to the outlet you’re pitching.
Each pitch differs, but here’s a general framework to consider:
3. Be Confident
No matter what your expertise, there are likely topics or themes within that industry that you’re not as well-versed on as others. If you’re a food expert, like my friend, you may not be as knowledgeable about French cuisine as you are about Italian. Maybe your vegetarian recipes are lacking. But here’s the deal: No one needs to know that but you.
When pitching yourself as an expert, you need to convince whomever you’re pitching that you are, actually, an expert. So tell your various and wide-ranging insecurities to shush, and put forward your smartest, most confident self.
4. But Don’t Oversell
Remember that confirming an interview is not the end game—successfully promoting your brand is. So while you want to come across as confident and knowledgeable, you don’t want to B.S. your whole pitch. If you do, you’re only going to end up hurting your reputation—and future opportunities—by sounding silly on-air or getting blacklisted by the booking department. Instead, give yourself a bit more time to get up to speed on your industry.
5. Be Prepared
Once you send that pitch out, consider yourself on-call—especially when pitching yourself to broadcast outlets. One way to not make friends with the booking department? Pitch yourself as an expert on a story, like the government shutdown, and then not make yourself available for interviews while the government is actually shut down.
Also, make sure you’re 110% comfortable and ready to speak to whatever information you include in your pitch. If there are stats you cite, make sure they’re legitimate. If you’re offering up exclusive information to one outlet, don’t talk to any other reporters about it. You want people to be impressed by what you’re offering, and then more impressed once they meet you—not less so.
Promoting yourself as an expert is a really effective way to raise your own profile and that of your brand. But there’s no getting around it: It’s tricky, awkward, and, as my friend pointed out, totally weird. But don’t let the icky feelings deter you: You are uniquely positioned to share what you know. As long as you don’t creep people out in the process, we’ll be seeing you on the Today Show (or in the New York Times!) soon enough.