Bad pitches fuel the animosity that can exist between reporters and PR pros.
It’s unfortunate, as PR pros can serve an increasingly important role to members of the news media who require quotations and additional information for their stories, but are overtasked and under deadlines.
I shared several selfish PR behaviors in a previous PR Daily article, but there are many more that serve to annoy, ultimately decreasing your chances of grabbing coveted media coverage.
Here are five additional examples of PR pros selfishly pitching—along with how not to replicate them:
1. Not doing your research.
Research is a main component to media relations success. If you don’t pitch the right reporter at the right publication at the right time, your pitch will probably end up in the trash. Blasting out a generic email to many reporters will guarantee a low-reply rate—and it might prevent you from landing a story with that person or publication in the future.
Here’s an example:
Sorry, we weren’t able to connect the past few times I reached out. I’m sure you’re busy—or even better, on vacation!
Either way, I’d still love an opportunity to connect about your Google Ads.
Though this was a pitch for a service, not a media coverage request, the lesson is the same: Do your homework before hitting “send.”
Many publications have submissions guidelines and staff pages, so you can see a breakdown of reporters and editors, along with their beats or focuses. At the very least, Google the person’s name (or look them up on LinkedIn) to make sure you have their name and title correct.
Unfortunately, many PR pros take this route instead of research:
Dear team of PR Daily,
I hope this email finds you well.
Is this the right person/department I am contacting in regards to my suggestion.
If not, please could you forward this to the right person or send me the right email so I won’t take more of your time.
Aside from the blatant copy-and-paste template and punctuation error, this follow-up pitch asks the reporter to do the PR pro’s work. That’s a pitching no-no.
Newsrooms are shrinking, so many publications are pushing out the same amount of content (or more) with less staff. A reporter laden with responsibilities and deadlines is not going to take the time to do your homework for you, especially if you didn’t spend the time to build a rapport with him or her.
2. Trying to make a connection when there isn’t one.
Building relationships with members of the news media can go a long way in helping you secure media coverage, whether it’s landing a story in a publication or having a client or leader quoted in an article. These relationships take time and effort. Don’t make the mistake of insinuating that you have a connection, when you don’t.
Here’s an example:
I know that, as a fellow leader, you will be as excited about the following news, given your personal mission towards Thought Leadership.
I am delighted to, herewith, announce to you my appointment on the Board of [organization omitted].
Unless this is a covert operation in which I was not made aware, I’m on no such personal mission.
It’s also against PR Daily’s style guide to use the term “thought leadership.” Though it might be OK in your organization, consider purging the jargon from your copy, as well. Instead, relay how you’re sharing your expertise and why it matters.
This commonly seen pitch also serves to make a connection that is not there:
My name is [redacted] from [company name]. I believe your readers would appreciate the product we just launched, which you can find at [website].
Stating that a reporter’s readers would appreciate your products, your services or your organization’s non-news does not make it true. Don’t take the lazy way out by inserting, “your readers would be interested.” Instead, pitch a relevant story that you wouldn’t be able to resist clicking.
3. Using the wrong name—or the wrong person altogether.
Would you expect to get a job after calling the interviewer the wrong name? Don’t expect to meet your media relations or PR goal with a pitch that messes up the recipient’s name.
I’ve been called “Ben,” “Beth” and “Betsy.” My favorite name error was forwarded to me by a co-worker, however. He reported that he had been called “Beky” (which isn’t even the correct spelling of my name).
Here’s another example of a pitch miss:
Your work has been an inspiration to me for a while now
and following your journey has consistently inspired me to
keep doing what I love.
I am contacting you only to give, not to ask for anything back.
I don’t know how anyone could mistake “firstname.lastname@example.org” for the email address to our chief executive, Mark Ragan, but it happens more often than I care to admit. Email mistakes happen. However, checking to ensure you’re emailing the correct person (and using the proper spelling of that recipient’s name) is the bare minimum required for making a good first impression.
4. Barfing up your press release.
Mass emailing reporters on media lists is a common (and ineffective) PR tactic, but some communicators don’t even create a pitch to blast. Instead, these communicators just copy and paste their press releases in the body of the email, or send pitches such as the following:
Please find enclosed the press release for our new campaign for [company name].
Images and video: [link redacted]
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Thank you for your interest in our work and kind regards,
A press release is not a pitch. As more and more PR pros are moving away from press releases and toward snappy pitches and compelling content, don’t fall for this misstep. It can quickly earn your email a place in the recipient’s trash folder.
5. Forgetting the “WIIFM.”
For journalists, asking, “What’s in it for me?” is an effective way to cut to the heart of a story and deliver the information readers care about. PR pros would be wise to use the same measuring stick—both when writing a press release and when crafting a pitch.
Here’s what a pitch looks like without a “WIIFM”:
On another note, it would be great to have a quick call if you have time this week to discuss how [agency name] could feature more in Ragan’s. You guys have been on my target publication list for a while! It would be great to discuss, so shout if you’re free. Perhaps tomorrow?
Why would any reporter want to take time out of an already hectic schedule to meet with a PR pro who can’t say what he or she could offer? Don’t forget to tell the reporter why your pitch matters—and get too far into your email to do it.
What additional behaviors would you add to this list, PR Daily readers?