Good lessons from bad PR pitches – February 2022 edition

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

Catch up on past editions: January, December, November

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

Biggest news – what’s NOT here

My biggest takeaway from this month’s assembly of tweets about bad pitches is what was NOT here. Zero complaints about Valentine’s Day (or even Galentine’s Day). That’s significant because journalists love to protest the amount of pitches they get tied to certain holidays, and Valentine’s was the second-most-common offender in the three-year analysis I produced for this ebook. Good job, PR people of the world! Your Valentine’s Day pitches must have been either solid or at least appropriately targeted.

Surprised it took this long . . . but there’s more here than meets the eye

“Journalists surprised by being pitched on Instagram/FB/personal Gmail/Signal/voice memo” has already peaked as a genre of complaint tweets. That’s not what’s noteworthy here. Click on the embedded tweet above and read through the replies. You’ll note some PR pros who have done the work to earn a relationship with John, and you can learn from the way they use this tweet to build rapport with him.

This is the context that you’re pitching into

Note the time of Alex’s tweet – he’s got 20 irrelevant pitches by lunchtime. Can’t emphasize enough how much you have to bend over backwards to prove that you’ve done your homework so you stand out from this noise.

This tweet sent me on an interesting odyssey of discovery

At first I was taken aback at how strident Sarah came across here. And this is her pinned tweet on the day I’m writing this, so she obviously feels strongly about it. Her Twitter bio says she writes about “money, health, parenting, and being a good human.” I didn’t see how productivity pitches would be “wild” in that context. Workplace and career development stories are wildly popular online (look how many you see on Fast Company and Business Insider, for example). But because I was so confused, I wondered if there was something deeper here, so I dug a little. And I found it.

First, the reason she’s getting a bunch of productivity pitches is because she wrote an article about how to avoid distractions in open offices . . . in 2018. So even though that was pre-pandemic and everything about the nature of work has changed since then, she’s still showing up in searches for “productivity” and she’s still getting added to those media lists. Second, I saw she retweeted an article from Business Insider about employees getting overworked and burned out since the pandemic began. This context explained her original tweet – it’s her twist on that old axiom of newsworthiness: a dog bites a man isn’t interesting, but tell me when a man bites a dog.

Why am I sharing all this? It took me less than five minutes to go from taken aback and borderline judgmental of Sarah to actually understanding and partly agreeing with her. All I did was look at her Muck Rack profile (free) and scan her recent tweets.

The problem is, that’s five minutes that very few PR people are taking these days to target their media lists. Probably because, in a sad irony, they are overworked and burned out ☹.

We already know journalists don’t like irrelevant pitches, but these are funny enough to share

Okay, you could have easily deduced that Dan at The New York Times is not your guy for this product pitch with a simple glance at . . . anything. Like his bylines, Twitter bio, or any tweet he’s ever sent. But there is even a full-on article on the Times’ website about what he covers and how he chooses his material!

Jasmine’s Twitter bio says “mostly write about feminism and the arts.” So unless you’ve got some wild angle on an artist’s feminist take on the big game, you oughtta leave her off your Super Bowl pitch.

On the other hand, this Super Bowl pitch is not as inappropriate as it sounds

I respect Jason’s professional discretion here – he can have whoever he wants on his air. But every local TV morning show in the nation had a guest on the week before the Super Bowl with tips about throwing a party. The pitches that led to those probably didn’t refer to the proposed guest as a “party expert,” but other than that, this is a common pitch because it commonly works.

Do they call it a win because it got your attention?

Obligatory mail merge errors

This approach is a near-automatic fail even when you get the mail-merge right.


This article was originally published on February 23, 2022

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