A natural part of any PR professional’s life, many of us would agree that we’re all pitching in our sleep. On any given day, I’m sending out dozens of pitches to dozens of journalists for a handful of different clients. I’m responsible for ensuring that each pitch has the right client, the right founder’s name and the right angle. That’s a lot of juggling.
On top of getting the basics of your pitch right, there are also a number of other important factors to consider.
1. It was a Case of Mistaken Identity. Rule number one when pitching a journalist: get their name right. You may be thinking, that’s easy, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to call a journalist by the wrong name or spell their name incorrectly.
Think about it, we’re busy and firing on all cylinders. Our day is full of contact information: names, outlets, emails, phone numbers. It’s easy for even the most seasoned PR professionals to slip up from time to time and call a Tom, Tim or accidentally write Megan instead of Meghan.
It happens to everyone, so always double-check your email openings and closings.
2. You Were Anything but Short and Sweet. I’ve been pitching for over 4 years and I’ve tried it every way. A medley of short and sweet pitches, to long and jam-packed with industry stats, customer successes and doing all but writing the piece for the journalist. So what’s the trick?
Keeping it short and sweet. Ideally, under 2-3 paragraphs. Give journalists a headline they can’t refuse and a few lines to show direction. If they’re hooked, they’ll reply and then you can start filling in the blanks.
3. You’re Experiencing Failure to Link. I love following journalists on Twitter, so naturally I see a lot of complaints about PR pros. A common one? PR pros failing to include a link to the company they are pitching. Sure, they could easily do a Google search or make a quick assumption it’s company.com but wouldn’t it be nice if we eliminate a few key strokes and link it up?
Journalists are busy people. Don’t make them Google it. Give them what they need: always use links.
4. You Weren’t Realistic. Yes, journalists are accustomed to working on short notice and tight deadlines, but that doesn’t mean you should rely on that when pitching your news to them. Give them notice, especially if you want to increase your odds of coverage.
Most journalists want at least 3-4 business days notice, while many are totally cool with you giving them a week’s notice. Worried about your super top secret news? Slap an embargo on it. Unless a journalist has broken your embargos in the past, trust them. They’ve got this.
5. Be a Storyteller, not a Spammer. Journalists know when they’re being sold and when they are being served an amazing story that will not only impress their editors but get the clicks and shares they’re after. Being the difference between the two is key to ensuring your pitch doesn’t hit the ditch.
PR is all about storytelling. It’s not what your product or service does. It’s how it’s a game changer. Focus on your why and avoid a bad case of the ‘we’re so awesome, cover us’ and you’re well on your way to getting a journalist’s respect and coverage.
6. You Didn’t get Personal. There’s a healthy balance between coming off cold in your pitches to looking like a stage five clinger. It’s incredibly important to find that balance and adding some personal touches to your pitch will go a long way.
Tell journalists about a recent article they’ve written that you loved. Mention a chat you recently had with them on Twitter. Thank them again for past coverage that did well for your client. Ensure at least 1 or 2 lines in your pitch are personal.
7. You Overfished in Your Media Pond. I have always said the golden rule to PR is building relationships before you need them. ALWAYS be meeting new journalists and making new connections. Why? Because you should never take advantage of a journalist.
Yes, it’s awesome that you just made friends with a journalist at the Times. They loved your angle and they covered your client beautifully. So does that mean it’s OK to reach out again in a week and ask them to cover another client? Or worse - the same client, again?
Slow your roll. Spread the pitching.
Crystal Richard is the Director of PR at Onboardly where she helps her clients share their story with the world. An avid writer and media enthusiast, Crystal is a born storyteller. A proud East Coaster, she is rarely caught without her iphone in one hand and a Starbucks latte in the other. You can follow her on Twitter @crystalcrichard.
Photo: Drainage ditch via Shutterstock