Good lessons from bad PR pitches – Jan. 2021 edition

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

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

Catch up on past editions: Dec., Nov., Oct.


Taking “prove that you read their work” too far

At first glance this seems baffling to most people (read the thread and watch AC and her journo friends try to figure this out). But it’s clear to me the PR person is trying to stand out as someone who has actually read AC’s work over time, not just for this one pitch. In theory, that’s an admirable stance we advocate all the time around here. Now that we have evidence this isn’t obvious to everyone: It is not a good idea to share what you think is WRONG with the previous work. You don’t need to suck up to the journalist, but it helps when you don’t offend them.


By now you should know, this editor REALLY doesn’t like diet pitches

Molly isn’t shy about this. Although it’s generally a fair assumption that you could send weight loss pitches to an editor at an outdoors mag who also runs a running newsletter, not after they’ve already warned you twice. Here’s the first one:


Pitching podcasts requires a lot more effort than you might think

Back when the App Store first became a thing, you could pitch a new app based on it being a cool new app. But before long, journalists had to instadelete any “new app” pitches, even if they were cool. The sheer number of them crushed the genre.

If there ever was a time when you could pitch a podcast based on it being a cool new podcast, that time is over. I’m seeing this more frequently on the PR side, where clients/bosses must be pushing PR people to get media coverage for their in-house podcasts. But it doesn’t make sense for a journalist to cover what is essentially a competitor. Not to mention that journalists don’t have 60 or even 30 or even 10 minutes to “listen to our podcast.”

If you must, then pull a substantive quote or two from a podcast and use that to supplement a pitch around some other strong news angle. See if you can get the quotes included in the resulting story, and MAYBE the journalist will link to the podcast.


This opinion is not universal among all journalists, but probably is among all at major dailies

I get it – there’s a travel PR pro somewhere who is repping an airline or a foreign destination and they have to do something. And the truth is, as unsettling and controversial as this may be, there are plenty of people who are not just willing to fly, but eager to. Maybe by February some would have even received the vaccination. Here’s the thing: This aggressive PR pro should be pitching the travel sites those people are seeking out. Not the general interest media who have a responsibility not to promote activities that contribute to worsening the pandemic. Like Megan at the Seattle Times.


Sad but useful exercise for empathy

I encourage you to click through to the thread and skim the excerpts of the hate mail Jenna gets. (Although harsh, it’s safe for work.) Good reminder of what the journalists we’re pitching are dealing with.


Don’t put journalists on automated emails without permission

Pretty obvious but I had to include because I used to pitch Don back in the day. He wasn’t shy about his preferences back then either :).


We get it – don’t pitch during a national crisis . . . but a couple useful nuggets

If you’ve been reading these breakdowns for any length of time, you are unfortunately not surprised that PR people would continue to pitch media during the deadly Capitol riot. We need to remember there is an entirely new generation of PR folk too young to remember that time the PR person tied her pitch into the Twin Towers falling HOURS AFTER THEY FELL. Fully one-third of the tweets Muck Rack found this month were complaints about getting pitched on Jan. 6. I’m not including all of them because . . . you already knew not to pitch during a national crisis. But here are two that have some value:

Maybe the PR pro thought that pitching Bree, who works at Consumer Reports, would be okay because she wouldn’t be covering the crisis. It’s a good rule during heavy news cycles (like election months) to niche down and focus on trades. But in rare cases, crises are so upsetting, nobody wants to work through them. This was clearly one of those.

I assumed that this pitch was only guilty of bad timing – maybe it was scheduled in advance and the PR person forgot to turn off the send. But this blunder becomes even more incredible when you look at Marisa’s recent articles on her Muck Rack profile. Marisa doesn’t cover fast food or restaurants or even business – in the past two months all her stories are about COVID and the presidential transition. This blunder – like most of those we’ve covered here – could have been easily avoided.

This article was originally published on January 29, 2021

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