Pitching to the press is no easy task. Every day, journalists receive thousands of emails from public relations professionals who are pitching their clients’ ideas; sometimes hundreds of mass pitches are sent to unsuspecting journalists from just one person in a given day. With such a high quantity of pitches, it is really easy to make a mistake, but it’s a shame when those mistakes could’ve easily been avoided with just a little awareness.
Take a look at the 7 biggest mistakes, and unfortunately some of the most common ones, that PR and marketing professionals make when pitching their stories to journalists. And next time you’re pitching your story, make sure you don’t fall victim to these public relations faux pas so you can increase your instances of PR success.
1. Forgetting to Follow Up
There is a fine line between calling and emailing a reporter non-stop until they answer you, and leaving a friendly voicemail reminding them about your pitch or sending over a short email following up. Reporters get so much email, that it is easy to lose track of a pitch, even if it’s one they’re interested in writing about. Give them a day or two to think about the email, and then make your contact. But most importantly, keep track of who you follow up with so you do not contact those who have already said “no.” You can do that using tools like BuzzStream, Nimble or HubSpot’s 100% free CRM (full disclosure here: I work for HubSpot).
2. Pitching at the Wrong Time
On a Friday afternoon, your email will not only get lost in the other mass emails from the week, but journalists will also not want to talk to you. It is almost the weekend, and many people will already be out of the office. It is also important to figure out what times the reporters are on deadline because they will not be interested in hearing new pitches; they’ll be busy finishing up some of their other stories. Timing is EVERYTHING.
3. Depending Solely on Press Releases
Press releases used to be the best way to get out messages about new developments. But in a world dominated by social media and short messages, press releases are not always the most successful way to announce something new. Press releases are still useful, but they should not be the only tool used. Combining press releases with email pitches that have bullet points of the main information in the press release can be the perfect combination to get the press you are looking for. It gives your media contacts the wherewithal to disseminate your information in other ways that may be even more beneficial for you.
4. Not Conducting Research About a Reporter
When you are pitching a reporter, make sure you are knowledgeable about his or her past articles. Research what topics he or she likes to write about and whether or not the reporter has written about competitors. Also, conduct research on the news source that reporter works for to see what type of topics they have written about in the past. Having this context will make the pitch much stronger and make your conversation with reporters more relevant, increasing your likelihood of coverage.
5. Not Doing Background Research On YOUR Industry
It is important to know a lot of information about your own industry, competitors, and other press in these areas. Before you get on the phone with a reporter, know all of this information like the back of your hand so your answers aren’t generic, but rather speak to the meaty topics in your industry. Competitive and industry knowledge will let you, and thus the reporter, position you correctly in their coverage.
6. Making Careless Mistakes
With a large number of pitches public relations professionals send out every day, it is all too easy to make a careless mistake. Unfortunately, that usually guarantees your email goes right in the trash or your voicemail is deleted. In addition to proofing for grammatical errors (tools like Grammarly are great for this!), make sure you’re not misspelling a reporter’s name in a pitch, using the wrong news source, or point blank including incorrect information to ensure you’re taken seriously.
7. Not Personalizing Your Pitch
No one wants to be on the receiving end of mass communication. Every pitch should make the reporter feel like he or she is special and that you put a lot of thought into a pitch that was appropriate for just one reporter. Whether that means referencing past articles that the reporter has written or connected with them via Twitter or other social media networks, it is a necessary step to get their attention.
What egregious mistakes have you seen public relations professionals make when pitching to reporters?