When pitch customization backfires

I was on a road trip last week listening to an interview I did with a top-tier reporter earlier this year. [Yes, that’s what we PR nerds do on road trips.] Something she complained about stood out.

She pointed out how PR pros will email her and cite something she wrote recently, then recommend their spokesperson as a source for that topic. The response in her head? “Great, but I already wrote about that.”

It occurs to me that your well-intentioned customized pitches might sometimes be misconstrued as promoting someone or something that’s now “old news.”

To be sure, referencing a reporter’s earlier work is a GREAT way to stand out from the bucketloads of generic mass pitches she gets every day. Your challenge, though, is to make sure that your pitch propels the earlier stories forward rather than repeats them.

Bad example:

Dear Reporter, I saw your piece on how unbundling is changing cable TV and thought you’d like to talk to our director of research, he’s a great source on the changing TV environment. His credentials are . . .

Good example:

Dear Reporter, I saw your piece on how unbundling is changing cable TV — you raised some great questions about how this will affect subscription services like Netflix and Hulu. I thought you might be interested in new research [embargoed until next week] that identifies the pricing structure millennials say they’d accept for access to ESPN and the other content currently only available on cable or satellite. Would you like to look at the results?

The key distinction to make is that you aren’t pitching a source, you’re pitching a new story angle that grows out of the old one.

Want to see more examples of how to do this correctly? And also tune up your approach to coming up with newsworthy and shareworthy angles?

I’ll be teaching lots more about both during a free webinar TODAY at noon ET. If that time has passed, or you’ve got a conflict, don’t fret – you can get the recording even if you register after it’s over.

I only do 2-3 free webinars a year because I focus the rest of my time and energy on the Inner Circle. This one today is being hosted by PR power blog SpinSucks.com.

Here’s their take on my stuff, with registration instructions at the bottom.

P.S. If you haven’t heard me speak, today’s webinar (or the recording later) will give you a good sample, complete with hip hop references and my Benedict-Cumberbatch-wannabe impersonation.

This article was originally published on September 17, 2015

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