Good lessons from bad PR pitches – March 2021 edition

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

Catch up on past editions: Feb., Jan., Dec.

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

Subject line “tricks” rarely end well – instead, they get you blocked

For a while it was a thing to insert “Re:” at the beginning of a cold pitch subject line, because then the journalist would think it was a conversation they were already in and be more likely to open. Not only dishonest, but stupid as well. These tricks that follow aren’t so obviously flawed, and that’s what makes them more dangerous. Younger PR pros may assume “that’s just how you do it.”


Jana goes on to explain in the replies that she blocked the sender – not a good outcome for someone who wants to reach her station.


I’m not saying you should never use “breaking” or “new” in a subject line. Just make sure what follows is consistent with how your target journalist defines those words.

Why themed holidays are the worst time to pitch

One of the most common genres of journalist tweets is “I’m drowning in [insert upcoming themed holiday] pitches!” See the IWD item near the bottom of this post. But those journalists never address the inherent paradox – PR people pitch around those days because journalists do stories pegged to those days! I’d like to thank Jennifer for succinctly explaining here what those more superficial tweets take for granted.

A new genre is developing – the non-journalist podcaster newly flummoxed by lazy PR pitches

Have you ever watched a young child process inappropriate behavior from other kids at the playground? That innocently confused reaction is what we’re beginning to see from podcasters who have been discovered by PR pros. These are often non-journalists who’ve achieved success in other fields – maybe speaking or consulting – and now suddenly their inboxes are filling up with unsolicited PR pitches. The unprofessionalism and lack of strategy is at first more confusing to them than annoying.

In the replies, Mark gives the simple antidote to this common pitching flaw.

Localizing news good, getting locale wrong bad

This pitch – generously and discreetly shared by Matt – is actually a great strategy, terribly executed. The most common complaint specific to local journalists is getting blast pitches from faraway PR agencies that show zero relevance to their locale. One of the best ways to fix this is to put “state name” or “city name” in the subject line, and then make sure you break out some aspect of your news that’s relevant in that area.

A common way to do that is to call out one of your newsmakers from that place. The other is what’s on display here – you do a national study, and then you break out the results by state or metro or market or however.

Just make sure you send the Oklahoma results to the Oklahoma journalists, and you’ll be more likely to get an interested reply than flamed on Twitter.

Check your scheduled pitches to make sure these aren’t still going out

More reminders that “women doing things” is not enough for IWD

We saw this last month in the run-up to International Women’s Day. And it continues. These are useful to show a misguided boss or client. Check out all the replies to the first one from Kat.

The obligatory reminders not to use mail merge

This article was originally published on March 24, 2021

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