How to avoid being labeled a PR spammer

Feb 06, 2014
How to avoid being labeled a PR spammer

Every day, without fail, dozens of press releases land in the inboxes of bloggers and journalists, sent by PR professionals trying to spread the word about the new services, special deals, fresh content or other things their companies or clients are hoping to gain coverage for. And every day, without fail, most of those pitches end up in the trash. 

Bad pitches are flawed in some major way. The releases are addressed to the wrong person, have nothing to do with the subject the journalists or bloggers cover or they are downright rude. Some of these PR people are just terrible at their jobs. They fire off identical, unpersonalized emails, based off of huge distribution lists or email databases. They fail to explain why their client would make for a good story.

These people are called PR spammers, and they’re the bane of journalists’ existence. As a PR professional, you need to steer clear of this frustration at all costs. How can PR professionals avoid that label while also gaining the coverage they want for their clients? Read on to find out.

Target the Right Places

Don’t waste time pitching the wrong publication. Remember, quality is more important than quantity. Sending out 1,000 identical pitches to every blog you could find an email address for won’t guarantee coverage. But sending out 10 well-crafted, focused pitches just might.

The most important thing to do is find publications that are related to the client you’re pitching. For instance, if you have a client who sells car parts, you probably don’t want to pitch a piece about that client to a women’s fashion and beauty website unless you have an incredibly unique angle. Instead, you should research publications that are read by your client’s target demographic, likely men ages 25-54, and then take the time to read over those sites, magazines and newspapers before you make your pitch.

Tailor the Pitch

You want to tailor every pitch. Mention a specific section that you think this story would fit in; it shows that you are familiar with the publication and took the time to customize your ideas. This increases the chances of a journalist taking you seriously.

For instance, a friend of mine promoting this infographic about sports injuries might target sites like Deadspin or Bleacher Report, which cover sports. But she might also consider sending her pitch to a site like The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog, targeting the Law & Lawyers page with a very specific spin for a post on this infographic. In some ways, the most obvious places to pitch might not be the best ones; they might already be inundated with similar stories.

Get the Names Right

Nothing turns off a journalist faster than getting a pitch addressed to “Mark” when their name is “John”—or, worse yet, getting a pitch addressed to the name of a competitor! Usually those pitches are moved straight to the trash. Double-check both the spelling of the names and the titles of the people you are pitching before hitting send. 

Be Polite

Some PR professionals take an aggressive approach when pitching a story. This can be okay as long as you remember to mind your manners. Calling someone who chooses not to jump on your story “stupid,” “an idiot” or “not good at your job” will do nothing to endear yourself to this person and gain coverage. (Think those examples sound extreme? Nope. This happens a lot.

You don’t have to become best friends with the journalists you pitch. You don’t even need to kiss up to them, contrary to popular belief. But being civil and polite goes a long way toward getting a civil and polite response back.

Don’t Resend Your Pitch Over And Over

Many PR people make the mistake of following up repeatedly on a pitch that has received no response. The assumption is that your piece deserves coverage, so the person you’re pitching must have missed it the first time if you haven’t heard back.

Follow the “one and done” rule. If you haven’t heard back in three or four days, sent a (polite!) follow-up note asking again about coverage and recapping the major points of your original email. If you don’t hear back again this time, take the hint: the writer’s just not that into you, or not interested in the topic you’re pitching.

It’s simple, really: if you don’t want to be labeled a spammer, be respectful, and don’t use spammy tactics. Follow these tips and you should start hearing back from the places where you want coverage. Ignore them at your peril—no one wants to be labeled a PR spammer. 

Adrienne Erin is an outreach specialist at WebpageFX who is always looking for ways to improve her PR game. She has written for Content Marketing Institute, Search Engine People, and SiteProNews. Catch up with her on Twitter to see more of her work, connect on Google+ or check out her blog, Pongra.

Photo: Roadside spam sign via Shutterstock

About the author

Social media blogger/designer who loves sharing ideas and making awesome stuff. I write for @SiteProNews @BlogHerald @Socialnomics. Health tweets: @foodierx

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