As we head into 2016, many are thinking about resolutions for the new year. What will 2016 bring, they wonder?
For PR pros, the new year is sure to bring more opportunities to further hone and refine our media outreach approach. Reporters often complain about the pitches they receive from PR practitioners. Sometimes, let’s admit it—they have a valid point. For real-world examples, check out @SmugJourno on Twitter. We can get sloppy and careless at times, in our rush to get the word out about our clients.
So what must PR pros do to make their pitches sing and earn journalists’ respect? Here are seven resolutions for PR pros as we head into 2016:
1. Resolve to send pitches that count. When you pitch, let’s resolve to take the time to really think about what we’re sending. “Throwaway” pitches abound, unfortunately. If you doubt that, just search “#PRfail” on Twitter. You’ll see plenty of examples.
So how can PR pros improve their pitches and media relations skills? They should resolve to do their best to ensure the pitch is a fit by basing it on the reporter’s beat and coverage area. And try to make it about something more important than the latest feature added to a product or about a sale or marketing promotion (that’s what ads are).
2. Resolve not to send “batch” pitches. One thing that drives reporters crazy is receiving pitches that aren’t personalized. “Dear Mr./Mrs.” isn’t the way to start your pitch. It’s a far better strategy to choose the target carefully and customize each pitch for that particular reporter. Does it take more time? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. And, by the way, rarely do you need to send out 100+ of the same pitch. Focus on your top targets to get better results.
3. Resolve to check—and recheck--spelling. Resolve to use care when proofing your pitches. Just think about it—if you were weeding through numerous email pitches each day, wouldn’t a poorly composed pitch with misspellings and grammatical errors be easier to delete than one that reads well?
One reporter I know says she’ll look past these errors, if there’s really something to the pitch—but that’s magnanimous of her—because I know of many others who feel these errors are grounds for immediate dismissal, by way of hitting the delete key. And for goodness sake, DON’T misspell their names! Or, heaven forbid, address them by the wrong name. That really makes them fume.
4. Resolve not to call them. Does anyone really like cold calls? Honestly, no. Reporters are no exception. If you’ve set up a time to talk, of course, that’s fine. This is about cold calling them re: a pitch you sent. If you didn’t hear back, most likely, they weren’t interested. Calling them isn’t going to improve these odds—it will only hurt your future chances of getting their attention. So don’t cold call—unless you absolutely must. Make it the exception, not the rule.
5. Resolve to include more “meat” in your pitches. This doesn’t mean make the pitches longer. And, it doesn’t mean include a bunch of industry jargon.
Just get to the point—no one has time to read through lengthy emails to try to figure out what you were trying to say. But, do resolve to include some data such as time or money saved by using your product—or perhaps stats that support why your product or service is important. If you don’t have your own data, cite another source. With a little research, you can make your pitch more compelling, which will help it stand out from the crowd.
6. Resolve to hold the attachments. This one seems obvious—but for some reason, PR practitioners continue to make the mistake of sending attachments to reporters. The only reason to send an attachment is if the reporter knows you’re sending it. If they requested something, like a photo or infographic, sure, it’s OK to attach and send. But you should _never_--and I repeat—NEVER—send attachments with an initial pitch. First, they have no time or interest in opening them—second, there are viruses out there. ‘Nuff said.
7. Resolve to make them feel appreciated. Remember that reporters are people, too. They’re not just a conduit for you to achieve your goals. So, show them your appreciation by taking care of them—honor their deadlines, get them what they need and always go the extra mile. Treat them with care and respect. Follow them on social, like and share their stuff (even if it’s not about your client). Maybe even say “thank you” once in a while.
If you follow these tips, chances are 2016 will be a very happy—and successful—new year for you!