Welcome to the first of what will be a monthly feature, where we turn lemons (journalists’ complaints about bad PR pitches) into lemonade (takeaways that help you improve your media relationships).
The journalists’ tweets below come from Muck Rack’s monthly feature, This Month in Bad PR Pitches.
And you can get way more insights into boosting your media placements and improving media relationships through the FREE media pitching certification course that Muck Rack and I just launched last week.
It’s so great that journalists are willing to give us this real-time feedback. Every single one of the tweets that follows is a perfect depiction of how not to pitch each particular journalist who tweeted it. But not all of them are generalizable across all journalists. I’ll tell you the difference.
Although there are some fun tweets about the glut of coronavirus/COVID-19 pitches, I’m not going to address those because I already did last month.
Oh my god do not dm me on Insta to follow up on a pr pitch you sent me please!!!
— Sara (@sarakbelcher) March 9, 2020
She didn’t like getting follow-up in her social direct messages.
Don’t follow up with THIS journalist this way. But I know PR pros who do this and get replies like, “Oh, I’m so glad you DM’ed me, my inbox is overwhelmed and I would have missed this otherwise.” How can you predict the difference?
First, you would only engage with a journalist on social if they use it to promote their work. That is, it’s clear that they view it as an outlet for their professional side. If they keep it to personal topics, then leave them alone there (until you go to lunch together and/or develop a relationship).
Second, you would ONLY follow up this creatively if you are absolutely sure that your topic is a good fit for them and that they would miss an opportunity if they weren’t aware of it.
Just so you know, if you send me a PR pitch about what a brand is doing for International Women's Day/Women's History Month, I'm going to look up what that brand's board of directors/leadership team looks like.
— Marisa (@mar_to_go) March 2, 2020
All pr pitches for Women's history month inevitably end like this: buy this piece of crap you don't need because it's made by a woman owned company.
— Kirsten Fleming (@KirFlem) March 5, 2020
Journalists are cynical about IWD/WHM pitches. Guess what? They are cynical about everything. That’s their job.
But it would be rash to assume that you should avoid pitching around this. Just take care to focus on a substantive step your organization is taking. Even if your board/C-suite doesn’t have the gender diversity it ought to yet, if you’re doing something meaningful to get there, it’s okay to push it out. If you’re woman-owned AND that fact significantly impacts the way your company runs, that’s okay, too.
Today has been a banner day for misguided PR pitches on topics I have never covered, including such buzzy topics ass….
— Tim Stevens (@Tim_Stevens) February 20, 2020
Beat reporters, don’t you just love a PR pitch that’s identical to the story you JUST did (with zero acknowledgement you already covered)?
— Rebecca Jarvis (@RebeccaJarvis) February 21, 2020
If you follow these tweets month after month, you see some journalists who are just flat-out anti-PR. But most of them, like these two, acknowledge that pitches are going to come, but demonstrate the totally appropriate expectation that we’ll be familiar with their work before we press send.
Review your targets’ recent work before pitching to make sure what you’re sending is relevant. If it’s similar to something they’ve covered recently, point out how it propels their previous story forward. If your boss makes you mass pitch so many journalists that you “don’t have time” to do it this way, do it anyway and save time by cutting time from something else. Otherwise you’re just breeding enemies you don’t need.
The three things that will survive after the apocalypse are cockroaches, Twinkies and PR pitches about CBD.
— Philip Bump (@pbump) April 8, 2020
Journalists get a lot of pitches about CBD. This has become an almost comical refrain through these tweets every month. If you go back a while, it was cryptocurrency. (You noticed both of these in the tweet above that listed off-topic pitches.) Going forward, they are going to be complaining about coronavirus/COVID-19 pitches.
It would be wrong to assume that you shouldn’t pitch around CBD or coronavirus. Obviously journalists need info that’s timely and topical. You just have the obligation to make sure your target journalist actually covers the topic, and that your proposed news has a point of distinction from whatever they’ve covered before. You can’t just throw the buzzy word onto old news and expect it to be fresh.
All of my favorite PR pitches start like this:
— Susan Campbell (@SusanCampbellTV) February 18, 2020
Journalists hate mail merge. Makes them feel like cogs in a machine.
Don’t use mail merge. If your boss makes you, then ALWAYS send a test email to yourself first to make sure you did it right. Media pitching is hard enough – spare yourself avoidable errors like this.
This article was originally published on April 20, 2020
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