Good lessons from bad PR pitches – August 2021 edition

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

Catch up on past editions: July, June, May

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

A funny analogy that is correct much of the time

For Gary’s work in the auto space, he doesn’t want to see your placements with other auto writers. This analogy holds up in any sphere of direct competition. Certainly with tech bloggers vs. tech bloggers, morning show vs. morning show, or local St. Louis outlet vs. local St. Louis outlet. But you can totally link to a NYT article when you pitch Today. Gives your pitch credibility. Same goes for linking to a lesser pub when pitching a larger outlet. It’s about perception – if your links could come off as implying, “Look, these other journalists covered this so you are missing out if you don’t,” then don’t do it. But instead, if you position the links like, “Here’s some additional info and perspective of how people are talking about this,” then go for it.

Does it matter what time you hit send?

It’s interesting to take a step back and realize that Ellen is stating facts here and not giving any opinion. Thanks to a tactful PR pro – Heather Garrett, well known on Twitter – who asked her opinion, Ellen offers later in the thread that she doesn’t usually read the overnight pitches, but the Sunday one is actually useful. My strong POV on this is that there is no longer any right or wrong time to send your email pitch – it totally depends on the recipient, and you usually can’t predict. Many journalists are like Ellen – they engage only with the emails they get during their workday. But many others get swamped during the day, and being at the top of the pile when they first check email in the morning is a good way to stand out. Try both approaches until you figure out the rhythm of each of your most impactful journalists. For the rest of your list, play it safe with the daytime release.

[Biting nails] “Do I pitch to personal emails or not?”

My rule of thumb for using a personal email address is the same as friending a reporter on Facebook – if you’ve had coffee together, or talked meaningfully about something other than work, or another indicator that you have some semblance of a relationship, then you can try it out. But acknowledge it’s the personal account to make it safe for them to say “it’s actually better to contact me at my work address” or “glad you sent this here – my work inbox is overwhelming!” Both responses are common. In the absence of a relationship, then you use the personal inbox as a last resort – when you have big news that they’ll be bummed to miss and when you haven’t gotten responses from emailing their work inbox. I know one PR pro who saved a launch with a last-ditch effort to a TechCrunch writer’s personal gmail – that TC piece then spawned a CNBC spot, and then it snowballed from there.

Annual installment of gagging at “Christmas in August” pitches

It is not these journalists’ jobs to stop and think about the fact that their counterparts at long-lead magazines are in fact working on their holiday issues right now. No, these journalists’ jobs are to work at Huffington Post, Wine Enthusiast, and The 19th, and it is OUR job to know the difference between these online writers and those long-lead journos who actually do want to be “thinking ahead” to the end of the year.

I went deeper on this in August of last year. This is not a timing problem, it’s a TARGETING problem.

Tweets like this can be canaries in the coal mine

Haven’t seen any others complaining about this phrase being over. But it’s a good one to keep an eye on if you’re doing lifestyle. (And I cannot stop myself from sharing that when I read this tweet I kept seeing “Hot CRUEL Summer” and hearing the “Cruel Summer” cover from the season 2 finale of Cobra Kai.)

Would you be here if I headlined this post “Please read!”?

See also my take from March about subject lines that get you blocked.

Scott Nover had a frustrating month with PR pitches . . .

. . . but at least he got engaged to his HS sweetheart – sincere congratulations!

This article was originally published on August 19, 2021

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