Greg Heilers’ Guide to Earned Media


Want to learn how to earn media placements for you, or a C-Suite executive in your company?

This guide gives a 3-minute explanation of the why, and then provides step by step instructions and screenshot examples of how to execute.

Earned media placements bring multiple benefits which fit under the umbrellas of PR & SEO.

When I talk about earning media placements with potential clients, we start with their intent. Typically, earned media campaigns are a best fit for those interested in:


  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Building executive authority
  • Building high domain rating backlinks


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This article is the cleaned up version of a series of posts I published on LinkedIn which seemed to provide value to a few folks in the industry.


Where and When to Pitch


For context, Jolly uses journalism sourcing platforms such as HARO and Agility PR Solutions.

For maximum efficiency (read: time and $), only contribute to journalists requesting expert sources. This is how you land on top- and mid-tier publications (cold outreach is only going to get an eye roll and potential blacklist).


When should you pitch?


As soon as possible.

The sooner you send an email, the more likely the writer still has room to copy/paste your quote into their article — and link back to you!

How often should you pitch? As often as you can.

Pitches should take 5-30 minutes, depending on the journalist’s requirements, your subject matter expertise, and your writing ability.


3 Steps to Finding Your Best Opportunity


Every day, hundreds of journalists are looking for expert sources.

If you only have budget or time to send out a few dozen pitches per month, how do you choose your best bets?

Niche down so that you are the writer’s logical choice.


Step 1: Does this fit you?


As you read the day’s opportunities, only read the details of queries that instantly resonate.

If you work for a company which sells a FinTech SaaS tool, offers financial advice, etc., a great opportunity in January 2020 was to be in an article on the Penny Hoarder (DR 76, 800K+ organic traffic monthly).


A Media Opportunity

By contrast, the same exec at a finance company shouldn’t bother reading DataBird Business Journal’s query about “Best WordPress Plugins.” Your expertise wouldn’t qualify you, and quick research shows their DR is only 28.


Step 2: Pass on missed deadlines.


If the deadline has elapsed, or you don’t have time to send in the pitch before then, the writer can’t help you.


Step 3: Check the requirements!


Don’t meet the writer’s reqs? Don’t waste your and their time asking if they would bend the rules for you — the writer can’t.

A Media Opp for U.S. News & World Report

If you’re still in the running, it’s time to read the query details. The walk-through below is how I earn media placements for clients and myself, such as this example with the U.S. News & World Report.


5 Rules for Successful Pitches


We know how to choose the right query. Now, what do we include in our pitch?


Rule 1: Cite your authority or relevance in the subject line.


This increases email open rates.


Rule 2: Explain your authority/relevance in the first 1-2 sentences.


Confirm for the journalist that they were right to open your email, and should read your thoughts because they pertain to the article’s topic.

Here are the first few lines of my pitch to the above opportunity for U.S. News & World Report:


How to structure a pitch

Notice I addressed how I was relevant to the journalist’s requirements in both the subject line and one of the initial two sentences.

Rule 3: Contribute value right away.


Now it is time to deliver real advice based on the questions the writer asked.


Rule 3.5: Don’t obsess over perfection.


Never send out a pitch riddled with grammatical errors, formatting issues, or other red flags that will land your email in the trash.

But, it’s *okay* to have a typo or two. Give your pitch a quick proofread, but don’t bog the process down by sending it to your company’s content department for review.

(See more on writing about sensitive subjects and ghostwriting for executives below.)


Rule 4: Conclude with an offer to contribute further, and before their deadline.


Keep it simple. This is good enough: “If you need any more information, I’m happy to reply as soon as possible.”


Rule 5: Have an effective email signature.


Be sure your email signature includes links to your company’s home page (both as branded anchor text and a naked URL), as well as your personal & company social media pages for the writer’s reference.

Follow these rules, and you’ll earn a media placement!


Greg Heilers in U.S. News & World Report

What NOT to Include in Pitch


Rule 1: Do not *solely* invite writers to contact you.


It’s really important for you to understand this:

Most freelancers get paid per article, not for their time! They want copy/pasteable quotes, not back and forth email exchanges, and almost certainly not to “jump on a call.”

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. If your writer is from The WSJ, NYT, etc., they probably want a phone interview. And, if the requirements say “must be available for interview,” then of course you can cut to the chase and save your time typing out the extended version of your response(s).

But, by and large, freelancers are *not* using these journalism sourcing platforms to find an email exchange partner. Give them the information they need, and you’ll amass wins:


Earned media wins

Conclude every pitch with an invitation for the journalist or marketer to reply asking for additional information. Just don’t lead off with that invite, or make it the only text in your email.

Rule 2: Do not beg for backlinks!


But *do* provide both a hyperlinked anchor text *and* naked URL back to your company’s home page.

By providing these as references, you make it easier for your journalist contact to give credit where due.


What about sensitive topics?


Every industry authority figure knows things other people don’t. When writing media contributions–for yourself or a client–you need to decide where to draw that line.


What to share? What to keep secret?


As a ghostwriter who has written for founders with $1B exits, CEOs of $100M ARR companies, and CMOs of 1,000+ employee global corporations, I don’t take that decision lightly.

Today, I lead a team of ghostwriters with no editorial oversight.

Our clients only see earned media placements after they are published – often in publications which receive significant traffic.

So, how do I set our clients (and our team) up for long-term success?

These parameters enable us to share valuable insights, while staying safe and confident with every earned media placement:

  1. Speak to what you know
  2. Never fabricate
  3. Share industry insights, not sensitive company data
  4. Keep it positive, i.e. never sling mud

These are simple rules for most of life, but especially useful when putting a name and face to earned media contributions.


Awesome site for us - Chane Steiner, Crediful CEO

5 Keys to Ghostwriting


Are you responsible for getting your C Suite executives into the limelight?

It is *critical* that ghostwriters only write as executives whose work they have firsthand knowledge of and experience in.


Ghostwriting for Media: Nuts and Bolts


1. Make sure to send ghostwritten emails from a domain-hosted lookalike email. Why?

  • Journalists want it “straight from the horse’s mouth.”
  • Sending emails from *you* saying “I represent so and so” converts at a drastically lower rate.

2. Be authoritative (see previous “How to Convert” post linked in comments).

3. Study, study, study – read all about your executive’s industry. This:

  • Strengthens your authority.
  • Gives you hot, recent industry insights.

4. Conduct executive interviews!

  • This is a great way to get company insights you *can* share.

5. Always write accurately. This is critical for both:

  • Getting executive buy-in
  • Making sure you don’t tarnish your executive’s and company’s reputations.


I hope this was useful!

Thank you all for reading, Greg Heilers, CEO and Co-Captain @ Jolly SEO  –