In this monthly feature, I extrapolate good lessons from the bad pitches my friends at Muck Rack assemble on their blog.
The “Don’t try to be nice to me” tweet:
If the email starts with “hope you are staying safe and healthy,” it’s a PR pitch.
— Giuseppe Sabella (@Gsabella) April 20, 2020
Journalists know there’s a pandemic. And they are okay with you getting right to the point. Although you meant well, journalists assume that you’re being fake nice.
The “Emphatic takedown even though this pitch approach works for other journalists” tweet:
Just so we're all on the same page, but a PR pitch with "No Love for XXX [insert subject's name here]??" as the subject of the headline gets an automatic delete and no read. No time fo that kind of passive aggressive making us feel bad BS.
— Wear A Mask, You Fuckin’ Idiot 📽🎞📺 (@YrOnlyHope) April 22, 2020
The one category of PR pitch I will never understand is "pre-researched listicle that just so happens to include one of our clients." Does anyone actually run with these?
— Jared Newman (@OneJaredNewman) May 11, 2020
These journalists are totally entitled to their opinions, and to share them. Gives us great guidance on what not to pitch to them. But pitches just like these succeed all the time with other writers. Journalists often ask for “strong takes” and know that conflict makes for a good story. I personally like Rodrigo’s positivity, but lots of his peers gobble up pitches structured like the one he’s auto-deleting. And I admire Jared’s insistence on doing his own research. Many other journalists are stretched thin, and when PR pros they trust do their research for them, they use it. I see examples of this working every week. Of course, no journalist is going to admit that on Twitter.
The “Annoyed with whatever time element PR people are using now” tweet:
The deluge of Earth Day PR pitch emails seem even worse now
— Dave Levitan (@davelevitan) April 16, 2020
In March they complained about International Women’s Day pitches. Next month it will be Father’s Day. And I predict we’ll soon start seeing tweets lamenting pitches that start with, “Now that [state] is opening back up . . .” At the same time, there were jillions of stories tied to IWD, and there will be jillions more tied to Father’s Day and economies restarting. Continue using timely pitches – just make sure you have a legit tie to the time element.
The “Sincerely baffled why PR people send me these irrelevant pitches” tweet:
I just got a PR pitch that leads with "Since you
cover sports passionately…" That's news to me! pic.twitter.com/uIRtQNujrI
— Lauren Gibbons (@LaurenMGibbons) April 24, 2020
What about “New York Times religion reporter” makes me sound like the right audience for this PR pitch? pic.twitter.com/e3Tc4q0Ej0
— Liam Stack (@liamstack) May 9, 2020
No excuse for these painfully hilarious misfires. Often when you dig into the threads you see that fellow journalists pipe up with “I got that one, too,” verifying that these were maddening cases of spray and pray.
The “Trying to be clever didn’t work for me” tweet:
just gonna leave this pr pitch here pic.twitter.com/Wmslv8nF0x
— Aziza Kasumov (@aziza_kasumov) April 16, 2020
This is a timely angle and could have worked with other journalists. But definitely was wasted on a Financial Times reporter who covers foundations and endowments, and therefore would not be open to it. Don’t let this one tweet deter you from trying to be creative.
The “Tone-deaf pitch during a pandemic” tweet:
Today is not the day to send me PR pitches about the health benefits of almond milk yogurt. Tomorrow is not looking good either.
— Carly Weeks (@carlyweeks) April 29, 2020
This genre of journalist tweet is going to be with us for a while and is particularly scary to timid PR pros. But you CAN pitch actual newsworthy, non-COVID stuff to the right people – just put tweets like this in context. Carly is the health reporter at Canada’s largest paper. She is absolutely consumed covering the biggest health story of the last 100 years. Definitely mistargeted here. But that doesn’t mean some food writers elsewhere won’t be intrigued if you’ve got some legit backup for your claims about almond milk.
That’s it for this month’s edition. If you want to learn in more depth, check out the free media pitching course that Muck Rack and I launched last month. More than 1,000 people have already graduated!
This article was originally published on May 21, 2020
(I’ll also send you other weekly tips)