It’s no secret that journalists don’t love the stereotypical PR pro (hence Twitter handles like this), but the reality is public relations helps keep the news flowing. This is only the case, however, if you’re doing it right. Nobody appreciates a stale email, inappropriately addressed email, mass email … the list goes on. News and magazine staffs are declining year after year, which means a decrease in available journalists to share your pitch with and an increase in how annoying a pitch can be. Don’t ruin a relationship with a reporter before it starts because it will only make your job harder.
More often than not, 75 percent of the time they aren’t responding because of deadlines, not enough time or they just aren’t interested, but what about the other 25 percent? It’s your pitch, folks.
- There is a person at the other end. One of the biggest things journalists tend to notice is a personalized pitch vs. e-blast. They appreciate knowing you researched their beats and stories, read them and found a way to present your idea based on those findings. They have names, too, so be sure it’s the right name in your intro. Personalize every time!
- Wrong, try again. With shrinking newsrooms, it’s not always easy to figure out exactly who is covering what beats. But pitching the wrong person is a PR pro’s worst enemy. If you’re not sure, call the news desk and ask. They’ll appreciate the research more than the apology when you realize you pitched a food drive story to a tech reporter.
- “So what?” Pitching a story that has very little (or none at all) newsworthiness will get it sent to the trash. If your pitch has them saying “so what?” then forget it. Just forget it.
- Local, local, local! Even if a broad-angle story has relevance in a small market, they aren’t going to jump on the bandwagon unless there is a (very) strong local tie. This can also go both ways – a very local angle won’t make it on national media outlets without a bazaar element to the story or something to bulk it up.
- Third time isn’t always a charm. PR is about building relationships. If one story pitch doesn’t work, it’s good to go back with more compelling news or a new angle. However, if you’re second (third, fourth, fifth …) pitch is just as lame as the first, good luck getting a response … ever. Don’t constantly share irrelevant or uninteresting story ideas, because writers will start to write you off completely.
- Timing. If you’re working with a national client, chances are you’re pitching to people in different time zones. This rule is simple, don’t pitch a writer on the west coast at 5 a.m. his/her time and expect an answer. By the time they check email, your pitch will be long gone and buried in the depths of their inbox. Plan it out accordingly and know where each writer is based before you pitch.
PR pros can’t fear rejection. It’s just part of the business. But, why make it easy for a reporter to say no? Take your time with each pitch, because one bad pitch could haunt you for much longer than it would take to do it right the first time.
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