When a reporter sees a mistake in an email pitch, it’ll probably get deleted.
Worse, it could end up on Twitter for your clients and the world to see.
PR pros are expected to be many things: a storyteller with Hemingway’s chops, Pulitzer Prize-winning wordsmith, well-connected media maven, therapist and psychic—not to mention a social media guru (with a following like Kylie Jenner’s), content strategist, Google analytics algorithms expert and data scientist.
No wonder PR was just rated the eighth-most-stressful job in the U.S.
Even though words are our business, the editing and proofreading phase often falls short.
We miss things—especially if we wrote it. How often, for example, have we overlooked a double “the”? Unfortunately, mistakes often rear their ugly heads after we’ve hit “send.”
In a perfect world, all PR and marketing agencies would have experienced proofreaders.
That task is usually left up to account executives, publicists, interns—even the receptionist. (At my agency, we stopped short of cornering the Fed Ex guy in the hallway.) This happens because most agencies probably consider an onsite, full-time proofreader a luxury.
However, these eagle-eyed gems are worth their weight in gold. They could even be profitable if quality control—specifically, proofreading and editing—were baked in to client programs. For every piece of content in a campaign, from a social media post to a bylined article, a QC fee would be calculated in the price.
Some might bristle at having to take another step (running it by the proofreader) when time is tight, but readily available software can facilitate and expedite the process: That urgent email pitch gets flagged for immediate—and essential—attention.
It’s well worth it.
Jon Chesto, a veteran journalist and business reporter for The Boston Globe, has seen his fair share of mistakes in email pitches—ranging from a misspelled addressee’s name to a major factual error.
From an acquaintance, maybe it’s forgivable, but when he gets an error-riddled pitch from a stranger, he says, “It’s just one more reason to hit delete.”
Hi, PR folks. No day is the right day to refer to Gillette Stadium as "Fox Stadium" in your non-football, albeit somewhat newsy story pitch. But particularly not the day after the Super Bowl.
— Jon Chesto (@jonchesto) February 4, 2019
If your agency can’t make a case for full-time quality control, consider the next-best thing: a freelancer who can work onsite or remotely. If either option isn’t feasible, here are some tips before you hit “send”:
- Have a third party read your content, even if it’s a short email.
- Fact-check numbers, names and other specifics (there is zero excuse for misspelling a reporter’s first or last name).
- Make sure links lead to the right place.
- Hold off on sending your content until the next day, if no one is available to proofread; this is especially helpful if you are a sole practitioner.
- If you’re not 100% sure, look it up. If you are 100% sure, look it up anyway.
- Don’t rely on spell-checking or grammar functions.
- Don’t think reporters, editors and producers don’t notice or care about errors
- Don’t abbreviate or use slang just because they’re OK for social media and texting.
- Don’t send anything out without someone looking at it first, regardless of content. (Email pitches are just as important as bylined articles.)
Consider this tweet from Andy Hollandbeck, an editor at The Saturday Evening Post.
So do PR firms just not hire copy editors or proofreaders? That's the sense I'm getting from the emails I receive.
— Andy Hollandbeck (@4ndyman) March 21, 2019
Let yours be the positive exception in a barrage of mostly flawed email pitches.
Lisa Rinkus is a Boston-based consultant and PR industry veteran. She ran her own boutique agency, LJPR, for 20+ years but is transitioning to her passion for editing, proofreading and writing. Follow her on Twitter at @LJPR and on LinkedIn.