The Muck Rack blog gathers ‘em, I break ‘em down.
See a three-year quantitative analysis of journalists’ complaints on Twitter here.
If this is such a fail, why do PR people keep doing it? I’ll venture a guess
If the first part of your PR pitch to a network includes "(competing network) reports…" …it's going to be a hard pass.
— Shawn Reynolds (@ShawnReynolds_) November 22, 2021
Why do so many PR pitches emphasize how many other news outlets have already covered the story–as if that's a positive?
— Timothy Aeppel (@TimAeppel) November 29, 2021
First things first – Shawn is at NBC News and Tim is at Reuters. Both outlets are at the top of their respective food-chains and live and die by getting things first. So the offending PR pros in these cases should have known better. Let’s be honest – they probably do know better but succumbed to the urge to send a blast pitch that treated Reuters the same as HuffPost or People or a trade website.
And that pitch that went to HuffPost or People or that trade website was done properly, because those types of outlets live and die by aggregating news already reported by other publishers. They don’t have enough journalists to sniff around and discover brand new things. Much of their content starts off as something reported by Shawn or Tim or another of the vanishing pool of actual breaking-news reporters left in the world.
Citing coverage elsewhere is actually a best practice when pitching outlets that aggregate news. Those are easy to identify because they’ll link to other outlets’ coverage in their own stories. And you can help them recognize that your news is legit by flagging other coverage in your pitch.
Here are two additional rules of thumb about including coverage links in your pitch:
– If you’re going down the food chain, it usually works. You can include a Reuters link in your pitch to the Sacramento Bee, for example.
– Broadcast (TV and radio) are more comfortable following coverage from a print or online outlet than vice versa. That means if you place a story in the Sacramento Bee in the morning, you can share that link with the network affiliates in Sacramento to strengthen your case for coverage on that evening’s newscast.
Actually, mid-December is not too early for Valentine’s Day pitches to feature writers
The #CJFeatures team just got its first Valentine's Day PR pitch can y'all chill for like, two seconds please
— Dahlia Ghabour (@DGhabour) December 8, 2021
I am pretty sure #ValentinesDay PR pitches can wait until at least after Christmas, and probably after NYE. I am certain if writers already have those stories they will reach out.
— samantha lande (@thepetitefilet) December 17, 2021
To be sure, it clearly IS too early for Dahlia and Samantha – they get to decide and declare what works for them. My job is to make sure that you don’t inadvertently assume they speak for all feature writers. Two months in advance is just about right. See Kelsey’s helpful tweet that says as much in the second item last month.
To their credit, Dahlia admits later in the thread that the features team at the Louisville Courier-Journal starts planning Kentucky Derby coverage in January – the “run for the roses” happens every May. And sorry Samantha, but writers don’t “reach out.” We gotta let them know what we have.
But Doug, all of us are in that other 20 percent
#CES2022 #PR pitches are like Christmas cards – They start to appear in late November and peak before December 25. Unlike Christmas cards, 1) they keep coming for another two weeks 2) You really don't want 80%of them in your mail box.
— Doug Mohney (@DougonIPComm) December 18, 2021
Doug unknowingly sums up the PR pro’s reason for being: to stand out from the 80 percent of noise in his inbox. He probably assumed this tweet would be a deterrent to PR people, but it’s actually intensely motivating.
What’s the right timing for following up on an evergreen pitch? Not this
I received a PR pitch at 4:54 pm on Tuesday with a follow-up on that same pitch at 8:35 am on Wed. (It was an evergreen story, not breaking news) SMH
— Jim 😷 Pavia (@jimpavia) December 15, 2021
Jim’s precision in his complaint is very helpful for us. You see, following up “the next day” is perfectly appropriate for timely news – but you want to wait at least 24 hours. That’s the rule of thumb top-tier journalists have shared with me (and assuming it’s a relevant, valid story). Evergreen features are literally a different story – 3-4 days is best, if there isn’t competitive pressure from another outlet.
You want journalists to be happy while they’re reading your pitch
So anyway I just got a PR pitch about a dog care company and the first line read something like “I noticed you lost your dog back in April” and now I’m crying on my laptop. I’m not running the story if anyone was wondering lol
— Serena (@serenataranyc) December 1, 2021
It’s good to connect with journalists on a personal level. Not good to try to do that around their personal tragedies, especially not when you’re promoting something related to those tragedies. If you rep a pet-related company and you see on social that one of your journalist contacts lost a pet, then it’s fine to send an email or card of sincere condolences. But don’t try to pitch, and don’t bring it up again months later while trying to pitch.
Buzzwords to avoid
My favorite slash most hated PR pitch is “I just wanted to gently float tktktktk.”
— Kellie Mejdrich (@kelmej) November 19, 2021
Talk about adding that "personal" touch to a PR pitch:
Dear CNBC —
If you're looking for dynamic guest booking opportunities to talk about many areas including the dynamic real estate market…
— Jim 😷 Pavia (@jimpavia) December 17, 2021
clearing out the PR pitches from yesterday and some flack wished me a “happy pre-friday"
— Benjamin Freed (@brfreed) December 17, 2021
It appears “gently float” is about to join “hope you’re well” and “circle back” on the dustbin of pitch-email history. “Dynamic” jumped the shark a couple decades ago, but I have to give props to the ultra-bored PR pro who ran out of day-of-the-week chitchat and came up with “pre-Friday.” Alas, it didn’t even have a chance to go out of style – Benjamin declares it DOA.
This article was originally published on December 28, 2021
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