Good lessons from bad PR pitches – May 2021 edition

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

Catch up on past editions: Apr., Mar., Feb.

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


Whoever these PR people are, I want to hire them

Okay, I get that these writers are complaining about what they think are intrusive tactics. And I respect their feelings – they’re the ones we’re trying to reach, after all. I’m not endorsing the tactics. What I’m saying is that when I read these tweets, my PR guy heart swelled up with pride that some enterprising pros out there are this resourceful. Instead of complaining about journalists never responding to emails, they got creative and found other ways to get in front of them. Such attributes are really hard to teach. A good manager can teach a PR pro how to discern the difference between persistent and intrusive. But it’s really hard to find people who have already lit the fire inside, like these unnamed PR pros have. If anyone knows who they are, please tell them to contact me – I’ll respect their anonymity if they want.

About the tactics – I’m less fond of the tagging in the Google Doc, because at its core it is disingenuous. It plays off the hope that the journalist will assume that the tagging is coming from someone they already know and are working on a doc with. But I still give props for the creativity, and if it was a good story being pitched, the journalist might have been okay with it.

But I love the PR pro hunting down Shoshana’s “secret” Medium account and using the comments to make a pitch. I talk all the time about trying to reach your target journalist’s “least crowded inbox,” and this example is the very definition of doing this. And later in the thread Shoshana says that the account is under her actual name, so I don’t think that’s very secret. There’s an interesting debate in the thread with a couple journalists appreciating the hustle and somewhat defending the PR pro, and then a couple other PR people saying they would never do something like that.


Will you cover me? Great, thanks – now how many page views do you get?

I once invited a neighbor to go to a college football game with me. He responded by asking where my seats were. They must not have been good enough seats because he declined the invitation. Now imagine that HE had been the one to ask if he could go to the game with me, and I had said yes, and THEN he asked where the seats were. That’s pretty much what this PR person did here:

Nothing wrong with being discriminating about which journalists your brand spends time and resources working with. You just do the research BEFORE you send out the pitch, not after the journalist says yes.


Full circle – NFTs are the new CBD which was the new crypto

The most-complained-about topics of PR pitches for the three years preceding Sept. 2020 were CBD and cryptocurrency (get my analysis of all 560 complaint tweets from that period).

If this trend continues, NFTs might overtake them the next time I crunch those numbers.

But there’s a counterargument. When these journos were tweeting this, NFTs were a legit rage. A ton of news was breaking about them, and many, many people wanted to learn more about them. The problem comes because the three journalists who received these pitches are loosely affiliated with tech, but not with the specific category associated with NFTs (blockchain). The first one is the DC correspondent for the SF Chronicle, so my guess is that she gets lumped in with a ton of tech pitches just because she’s on the masthead of the paper of record for a tech town. The other two cover gaming and consumer tech products, respectively. Takeaway: It’s okay to pitch into a raging trend (even if it may be a fad), as long as you target properly.


Searching for prior coverage on the topic is good. But actually look at the coverage.

This is another example of PR people trying to do something the right way and a journalist not liking it. It’s a matter of nuance. Props to the PR people for using a journalist’s content to target pitches (instead of spamming huge lists). The problem here is that Chris is a travel writer, so he’s not going to be into your software- or HR-related pitches about remote work. When you use content searches to ID target journos, actually double-check the content. I wrote more on how data mining is creating a monster in the Feb. edition.


Empathy for the pitch about “poop coaching”

I initially included this one for laughs. But good for a couple people in the thread for pointing out other ways to look at this.

One reply: “Have a heart for the person who had to send that pitch.”

Another: “Honestly, would click.”


Roundup of generic pitch formats

If you click on the tweet and review the thread, you’ll see a bunch of journalists parodying the generic pitches they often get. Nothing new here, but it could be a useful check to make sure you haven’t inadvertently stumbled into any of these pitching ruts.

This article was originally published on May 20, 2021

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