Good lessons from bad PR pitches – April 2022 edition

The Muck Rack blog gathers ‘em, I break ‘em down.

Catch up on past editions: March, February, January

See a three-year quantitative analysis of journalists’ complaints on Twitter here.

Celebrating two years of these monthly articles – also celebrating a significant decline in the number of complaints about cannabis pitches (but still a thing, see below).

Never automate pitch customization – or you might pitch a weight loss story to a reporter with an eating disorder!

What’s happening here is some PR person (props to Kelsey for not naming them) ran a database search for articles or tweets that mentioned some terms related to weight loss or diets. And then set up a blast pitch to everyone who authored one. In hindsight, you can see how a computer might not be able to tell the difference between a dieting tweet/article vs. a vulnerable post dealing with thoughts related to eating disorders. But that’s why you don’t leave your crucial relationship-building work to a computer! These are human beings we’re trying to connect with. They deserve you at least vetting each post that you’re mentioning to make sure it’s actually relevant. Because you don’t get the benefit of hindsight on your next pitch – you won’t think of the unique case where your otherwise harmless pitch could actually be hurtful or offensive.

This one isn’t offensive, just wrong. I love that Jim is asking for receipts. Not that I’m anywhere close to the pitch volume of the money editor at CNBC, but I’ve started getting blast pitches because of the articles I write for this site. They are all looking for SEO-juicing backlinks to the most random and unrelated of articles. I have a canned reply: “I’m curious why you feel your site would be interesting to my audience of PR professionals?” I’m probably going to give ten bucks to the first person who owns it and replies with “my bad.” So far it’s been 0 for about 100.

You knew this was coming – Tweets about Pitches about The Slap

Finally, a journalist who sees both sides!

Virtually every month we’ve got a tweet in here complaining about receiving pitches about some cultural phenomenon that the tweeter thinks is not newsworthy. Except that jillions of other journalists are covering it. Julie acknowledges this negative self-perpetuating cycle and does her part to slow it down.

Boxing odds – actually newsworthy

These odds were actually newsworthy for about 30 minutes the morning after. Announced by a well-known oddsmaker in a keen act of newsjacking.

You know it was bad when a gadget reporter feels compelled to join in

There can be no sympathetic explanation for this

I feel like I understand what’s behind the curtain on media pitching campaigns pretty well, and I can’t conjure any scenario that makes this understandable. Either multiple people on the same team are pitching the same journalists (easily avoided), or one person is clicking “send” and maybe their software isn’t showing that the pitch went out? Or maybe the journalist has multiple email addresses that all forward to the same inbox.

And Dave’s tweet has another layer to it – he’s a climate reporter, but he’s never written a piece with an Earth Day tie. Lots of journalists do tie into the usual time elements associated with their beats, but a meaningful portion of them (see some more below) view such promotional “holidays” as hollow and beneath them. Super easy to tell the difference – just search their past work for the name of the holiday, like “Earth Day.” If you see zero results, don’t send the pitch to Dave. Or rework it so it doesn’t rely on the holiday.

Too many pitches about 4/20

Cherish the valuable real estate at the top of the pitch

At first glance I thought this was yet another mail-merge fail, and I thought it was kinda harsh that he didn’t redact the agency that sent it. Then I was like, wait, they put their logo at the top of the pitch? It appears to be a template they use regularly. Not recommended. After the subject line, the first line of your pitch is the most important part. If the initial thing a journalist sees is an unfamiliar logo (for a PR agency, no less), their curiosity about what comes next will drop almost to zero. If you must include your agency name and logo, put it in the signature.

Obligatory mail merge error

This article was originally published on April 26, 2022

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