Lately, I’ve read a lot of posts by my media friends and colleagues complaining about the quality of the pitches they get from PR professionals. I’ll note that they are kind enough to say “I work with some excellent communicators, but…” before they finish their thoughts, but simply put they have less time, more work, and are getting short on patience.
As someone who has worked as a professional communicator (and occasionally in the media) for over 10 years, I want to share with you why I believe these fine media folks are not interested, or worse yet, ranting about you and your pitch.
1. It’s not news. Many pitches are too commercial to be considered a news story. Ask yourself, does your product or service stand up against the wild happenings of the world on a daily basis? Does it solve a really unique problem? Has it made the world a better or more interesting place? Has someone in the organization done something out of the ordinary? If not, it may not be a pitch at all. This is totally fine, it doesn’t mean you aren’t offering something of value, but you may need to look at paid advertising, social media, or old-fashioned face-to-face selling.
2. It’s not the right person or outlet. Trust me, keeping a media list updated is a losing battle. Every week someone has changed their beat, gone on mat-leave, or (on occasion) into a PR career. Have you done your diligence to see if they are still working for the same organization, or cover stories like the one you’re trying to sell them on? Ultimately, every journalist has the right to decide if your story is relevant to them, but be mindful – sports media don’t want to hear about your new line of mismatched socks.
3. The subject line is weak. This is a big one because a lot of pitches go straight into the trash before even being opened. Watch you’re not being trite – “foodies rejoice!” is not going to catch their attention no matter how many exclamation marks you use (and by the way, don’t ever use them). Consider what is novel about your story, be specific, be brief, and be professional.
4. Your timing is off. Always think about the lead time and the seasonal stories that are sure to be coming. A holiday gift guide is started in the summer if you’re working with a printed magazine, but the lifestyle news producer or blogger could be interested in November. Also, don’t get hurt feelings if you’re hosting the world’s greatest event and then a train literally goes off the rails that afternoon. Media have to prioritize and sometimes you will get bumped. As Taylor Swift would say, shake it off.
5. Not enough/too many details. You may have a lot to say about your event/product/service but have you got the basics easy to find? Date, time, location, google map, contact name, it’s easy to get caught up in the small, exciting details and miss the basics. Every email program has formatting options so bold your important information, put it at the top, do whatever you need to do so that at a single glance the journalist can find it. Then ask yourself, what else might they be looking for, photos, video, quotes?
Finally, be prompt in your response. If you do get the response you were after, answer their questions immediately and be available anytime.