Working in media relations is not for the faint of heart or the easily discouraged.
PR pros shouldn’t expect success every time they pitch a story — having three out of 10 pitches result in a placement is considered a good average — but a good PR professional will want to increase his or her chances of success in every way possible.
“Engaging journalists on Twitter is a great way to stand out from the masses of PR pros clamoring for their attention,” PR pro and media-relations trainer Michael Smart says. “Once they recognize your name, it’s more likely they’ll open your email when you send them a story idea.”
Building those relationships is fruitless, however, if you send a journalist a pitch they couldn’t care less about.
Here are five types of pitches reporters don’t want to receive:
1. New hires, expansions and mergers. Your PR firm has hired two all-star account directors and is expanding into a new office. Congratulations, but how is this news for reporters?
Instead of crafting a press release about the state of your firm (which will assuredly end up in the trash), consider having the new hire write down his or her insights in a company blog post, which you can then share across social media or submit to online publications as a guest post.
2. Irrelevant products and services. Reporters know you think your new product or service is the best thing since sliced bread, but that doesn’t make them care about your pitch over the bountiful supply of others clogging their inboxes.
Take the time to research both the reporter and publication to ensure your wares are the right fit, and ask yourself whether what you’re pitching is actually news.
If you don’t have news to share, consider running a study that shows the need for a product or service such as yours. You’ll be able to pitch information of interest to journalists, along with offering a solution they can include in an article.
3. Weekly newsletter updates. To keep readers subscribing to your weekly email blasts, make sure you’re sharing news and insights that are relevant and worthy of their time.
Journalists’ inboxes are full as it is, and unsubscribing to emails that don’t say anything useful is only a click away.
PR pros should also remember that a quick way to alienate reporters is adding them to email lists they didn’t subscribe to in the first place. This blatantly spammy behavior can ruin your credibility with a publication when you do have news.
4. Jargon-laced rundowns of campaigns and newsjacking. Brand managers frequently jump on trends, and unless a reporter is writing a trend piece or reporting on how your social media manager made a snafu on Twitter, most of these pitches fall by the wayside.
It’s even worse when a pitch and the accompanying press release are full of jargon. You may really have circled back with your chief optimization officer and found a way to leverage your static content to engage influencers and gather thousands of impressions, but no one wants to muddle through sentences like that to get the story. They just don’t have the synergy — um, energy.
If your company or firm did something truly remarkable, enter the campaign in a PR or marketing awards competition so you can get recognized for your efforts.
If you’re still determined to send the information to a journalist, make sure the campaign is relevant to the publication, jargon-free and timely in order to be noticed in the fray.
5. Non-pitches. Pitching is hard work, and when time runs short, the temptation to blast out a press release to your media list is tremendous.
Restrain the impulse to “spray and pray” to every publication for which you have an email address. If you don’t have time to craft a pitch, chances are you didn’t do your homework. If you can’t think of a pitch for a specific journalist, chances are the press release isn’t right for him or her.
You want your brand or client to be in as many publications as possible, but when you’re pitching, less can be more.
By targeting the reporters of magazines and papers your audience actually reads, you’ll stand a chance of getting consumers to check out your services and wares. You’ll also build a valuable relationship with a reporter that you can tap into for future stories.
Beki Winchel is a Wisconsinite with an accent and a deep love of the Packers to prove it. She graduated from Brigham Young University in PR, and specializes in social media PR. She’s worked with companies in a variety of industries and has co-authored a book and industry publications about bridging the gap between traditional public relations and digital media.
A version of this post first appeared on Ragan.com.
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I find articles about the relationship between the reporter and us as PR practitioners to be the most applicable of any PR tips I read. I especially appreciate the reminder to not “spray and pray”. Sometimes, it is better to wait for something newsworthy than to put out poor quality or irrelevant press releases.
I imagine that the principle “less is more” sometimes applies, because if a reporter knows you only send them good stuff, they are more likely to read or publish your content.
Thank you for the article!
I would add “Awards” to the list, unless it is a major national or international award. Don’t even bother with readers-choice type awards because they are not scientific and mainly just popularity contests.
Great post. I agree with just about everything, except the caution against newsjacking. If national news moves that is directly related to your client’s business and a spokesperson can add genuine value to a story with his or her unique expertise, you should definitely offer him or her as a subject matter expert to reporters who are covering the national story. Of course, this doesn’t happen frequently, so when it does, it’s important to act quickly, but strategically.
Great advice about the dos and don’ts of what to pitch. I think as a student aspiring to be a PR professional it is so important that I go ahead and look for what works and doesn’t work in the industry, so I can have a better grasp of it whenever I am able to dive in. It can be easy to get wrapped up in our own organizations like it can be with our lives. A PR professional pitching about any of the topics above would be like me tweeting about what I ate for breakfast: sure, somebody may find that interesting, but most people won’t care and it has no news value. Thanks again for the guidance! I found this article very helpful.
A good way to tell others what they should do is to tell them what they shouldn’t do as well.
Your advice not only highlights the difference in viewpoints between PR professionals and Journalists, it offers ways to overcome the difference. Every relationship building activity is built on reciprocity. PR pros want their campaigns published and Journalists want something to publish. I appreciate your advice on how to package my product.