I guess I need to say this: Don’t be misleading when you pitch

I’ve always taken this for granted – I don’t write about it, I don’t include it in my live training. But it needs to be said. Some pros are being taught improperly and might not know better. Others might feel it’s okay here and there if the ends justify the means. Regardless:

Don’t be misleading when you pitch.

Here’s a ruse that some people think is okay (it’s not):

We know that a journalist is more likely to open an email that’s part of a previous conversation they’ve had with someone.

So some PR pros – probably just looking for an edge – will write a cold email to a reporter they’ve never contacted and put “re:” in front of the subject line. The hope is that the journalist will think it’s from someone they’ve written back to before and therefore open the email.

And that’s where the ploy breaks down. Do the pitching pros who use this ruse think the journalists are then not going to notice that they’ve been tricked? How will that make the journalists feel?

Another less obvious shortcut some people take is to label something the “only” or “first” or “best” without actually doing the research to verify it. They feel like they can fall back on the excuse that they “didn’t know” about the competitor who actually deserved the superlative.

Maybe one of these tricks works with one time-starved journalist and the cheater gets a media placement out of it. Is that one placement worth alienating all the other reporters who received the weasely pitch? Is it worth continuing to tarnish the reputation of all media pitching pros? Of course not.

We’re in the business of building relationships. All relationships start with trust. Why begin your outreach with deception?

Truth has a certain ring to it. Even if you get away with it here and there, your media contacts are going to have an unspoken wariness about working with you. When they hit crunch time, they’ll turn back to those they trust and away from those who “just don’t feel right.”

Those are the pragmatic reasons not to mislead. There’s an even better reason:

It’s just wrong.

No set of media placements is worth your integrity. No matter how much pressure a boss or client may be putting on you.

Hold the line and you’ll be rewarded for it in the long term, even if that reward is simply peace of conscience.

This article was originally published on July 9, 2015

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