More good lessons from bad PR pitches – September edition

Each month the Muck Rack Blog assembles journalists’ tweets about PR pitches. And each month I function as your “journalist interpreter,” highlighting the helpful feedback and pointing out when one person’s strongly held views may not represent all journalists.

If you’d like to take a deeper dive into my quantitative analysis of three years’ worth of such tweets, you can check out the ebook I wrote for Muck Rack.

Now, on to this month’s tweets and the lessons they teach:

The superlative comparisons that have lost meaning

This is an example of a helpful practice that’s been overused. The helpful practice is to create a comparison that allows a reader to quickly relate to a new idea. It’s like the literary agent who probably pitched the Percy Jackson series as, “It’s like Harry Potter but with Greek and Roman gods.”

The problem is that way too many people have stretched too far with the specific comparison of “it’s the Airbnb of . . .” to describe any company that has anything to do with the sharing economy. Even if you really are that, you need to find another way to explain it to avoid journalists assuming you’re full of hype.

Another superlative comparison that’s overused is calling whatever industry award that your client just won either the “Oscars” or the “Olympics” of that industry.

“Minor” formatting consistency is tricky but worth the extra effort

I always pay special attention to any “journalist gripe tweet” that shows self-reflection like this one. And his feedback is really valuable because the formatting flaw he’s noting is often hidden from the PR person composing the pitch. When you paste stuff into the composition window, it can look like it matches up with the rest of the pitch. But for some reason, different email programs render it differently on the receiving end.

The way to prevent this is to use the “remove formatting” function on your email software after you paste the text in. In Gmail, you click this icon at the end of the menu bar:

If you use a different email program, just Google “remove formatting [name of email program]” for instructions.

After you remove the formatting, then you can reformat all the text in the email and rest assured it will look the same on the other end.

Stretching too far to cleverly tie into a time element

It appears that “striving for a play on words about a time element” is a thing. Until I see one that works, I recommend that we in PR nip this nascent pitch genre in the bud before it grows worse. Here are a couple others from previous collections to help with deterrence:

Use facts, not hype

You already knew this, but now you have a helpful tweet from Erik to show your client when they keep pushing you to use hype words instead of objective facts.

Next steps

If you’re ready to invest in learning more about what to do (rather than what not to), then my free media pitching course is waiting for you. More than 2,000 people have completed the certification – it’s quick and fun.

This article was originally published on September 29, 2020

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