Recently I spoke about media pitching at a conference where many of the speakers were journalists. With this in mind, I warned the audience that I was going to say things that some of these journalists might disagree with, even though my job is to help communicators build better relationships with them.
How is this possible? Well, it’s important to keep in mind that when journalists speak on panels, they are thinking about their typical interactions with PR pros. If you want to keep getting typical results, then their general recommendations will be enough for you.
But if you want extraordinary results, then you may need to defy some of their conventional advice.
Think about it from their perspective. Journalists’ inboxes are full of email pitches with buzzwords and jargon, so naturally they’re going to say — “Just tell me about your product or service. Just the facts.” And when they say, “Don’t follow up with me — if you don’t hear back, that means I didn’t like it,” they’re thinking about all those emails they get every day that simply forward the original message, which was just the same press release blasted to all their competitors.
They’re probably not thinking about the extraordinary PR pro who wrote them a carefully crafted pitch or detailed follow-up email that may have inspired a great article. However, this isn’t cause they don’t value our work; it’s that they’re under their own pressure to produce.
Recently, one of my best friends became a top editor at a major daily after spending years in communications (and earning a degree in public relations). I asked him if he’s more sympathetic to the PR outreach he gets since he knows what it’s like to be the person sending the pitches. He said, “I value good pitches — I just don’t get any,” adding that most of what he receives is generic and impersonal.
This pressure — to find a story worth reporting to your audience amidst a deluge of pitches — is similar to the PR professional’s dilemma: There often isn’t enough time to personalize messages when you must pitch up to 50 people. At the same time, we know what it’s like to really focus on an influencer’s needs, and therefore it’s all the more glaring when someone doesn’t.
If your overriding objective is to avoid committing some theoretical “cardinal sins” of media pitching, then you’ll probably achieve that objective — and you’ll miss out on coverage you otherwise could have gained.
So, don’t be constrained by the errors of the masses, and don’t get scared off by journalists who only want “the facts.” Stand out from the crowd by doing what’s right for your particular pitch for your particular targets.
We succeed when we don’t just meet journalists’ needs — we anticipate them, too.
Michael Smart teaches PR professionals how to dramatically increase their positive media placements. He’s engaged regularly by organizations like General Motors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Georgia Tech to help their media relations teams reach new levels of success. Get more media pitching knowledge from Michael Smart here.