More good lessons from bad PR pitches

Another month, another breakdown of lessons learned from Muck Rack’s monthly compilation of journalists’ tweets about bad PR pitches.

ICYMI, last month I designated the 6 Genres of Annoyed Journalists’ Tweets.

Lesson: End your pitches with a call to action.

This befuddled journalist’s reaction should help timid PR pros who are afraid to come across as “pushy” if they close their pitch with a question. “Would you like to interview (source)?” “May I send you more information?” “Can I connect you with (source)?” are just examples.

Lesson: Be very careful about uninvited physical mailings.

Deep in the many replies to this helpful journalist tweet came this recollection from a peer:

These tweets remind me of the interview I did with the executive editor of a prominent women’s mag. Someone used a courier service to deliver a media kit that included a live goldfish.

In all the cases above, the PR pros were trying to stand out, and that’s laudable. But you’ve got to think through the possible imposition you might be creating. Standard rule of thumb: Don’t send anything alive (that would need to be cared for) or perishable (that would create problems if unopened). I mean, causing an ant infestation is just terrible bad luck, but the effort would have been forgivable if the package was actually relevant to the reporter.

Lesson: There is a limit to the effectiveness of persistence.

I would actually like to talk to the PR person who sent Joe nine emails in one day and explore what prompted that behavior. And I warn Kat that she has now inadvertently alerted those dogged PR pros that she is actually still checking her email even though she’s on maternity leave. 🙂

Lesson: Don’t be cavalier with anyone’s name.

The old “Dear FirstName” complaint is well known. But this month’s batch of annoyed tweets contains not one but TWO cases of PR people consistently addressing men named “Jon” as “John.”

As someone who goes by “Michael” and not “Mike,” I can relate to these gents. It’s not like it’s offensive, it’s just like, “It’s hard enough to get my attention with a cold pitch. You could at least take the time to get my name correct.”

Bonus lesson here: Jon Ostrower delivers a dead-on skewering of the formulaic follow-up on a source pitch. You’ve gotta do it, but vary the rhythm and approach. It’s more effective to lead with why your source would be so relevant for the news of the day, something like, “Ashley Jacobson was the first female entrepreneur to sell CBD oil in exchange for bitcoin. That’s why I’m checking back to see if you’d like me to connect you with her ahead of the planned release of the 5G-inflamed COVID-19 study?” 😉

Lesson: Don’t confuse a ‘bad pitch’ with a ‘poorly targeted pitch.’

I like this angle, and I can’t tell if Andrew is being sarcastic about taking offense. But I am sure that this isn’t a good pitch for him because he covers the state capitol of Arkansas for the AP. Says so right in his bio.

Lesson: Top-tier journals smell desperation, and it’s a turn-off.

I appreciate Dana’s raising this issue in an open-minded way, rather than condemning. And lower down comes an insightful response (that I agree with) from the lone PR person in the thread:

Lesson: PR people must be learning not to keep pitching during national crises.

The period covered by these “bad pitch” tweets spanned the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests – one of the biggest and most impactful news stories in generations. When I started scanning this month’s collection, I expected to be overwhelmed by tweets complaining about insensitive pitches. But I could count only four. Perhaps journalists were too busy covering this ongoing superstory to tweet their frustration. Or perhaps, I hope, we in PR learned from all the tweets during the first week of the coronavirus lockdowns that it’s better to press pause when a national crisis erupts.

This article was originally published on June 22, 2020

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