Top PR agencies know the value of a well-crafted PR pitch to get the attention of an overworked and cynical media contact. Our years of experience have provided us with a pretty accurate “6th sense” for what will and will not get positive journalist attention. With that in mind, we have prepared a list of the type of PR pitches to avoid at all costs.
The overly commercial pitch. The media aren’t interested in an approach that screams the company name and all its selling points. Journalists are in business to tell a story to their audience, not provide coverage of every company announcement that comes their way. The smartest pitches convey company news and benefits “wrapped” in a newsworthy, compelling narrative that gets a writer’s attention.
The long pitch. The kiss of PR death. More than about 120 words and you will likely turn off a journalist who’s looking at 500+ e-mails a day. As a writer friend once said, if everything is found in the pitch, what story do I have to tell? The pitch has to tantalize and intrigue, telling just enough to whet the reporter’s appetite to learn more — ideally, through an interview.
The “too creative” pitch. This anecdote from a producer bears repeating, since we first wrote about it here. She received a pitch for a career website that included examples of how to be inspired by historical figures associated with Thanksgiving and included the line, “Pilgrims, the original networkers.” The same person pitched a story near Halloween about reviving a “dead career” which began with “rise at the witching hour.” The producer’s advice: not everything needs to have a theme. Clever writing and puns have their place, but err on the side of simple, clear language to get your points across.
The inaccurate pitch. Hell hath no fury like the deceived journalist! Be very clear about what your story is, what your spokesperson will talk about and when, and major details like statistics or financial details. We’re not above a little creative hyperbole to get interest, but tread carefully. This also applies to an approach that overpromises in any way. It’s likely to backfire.
The ill-timed pitch. The smartest PR teams research deadlines of all those they pitch and err on the side of allowing extra time. Think the way the media think. Print magazine? Allow 3-4 months. TV news? Just a few days usually. Online news site? Same day for breaking news. Avoid the frustration of being shut out by getting a good handle on media timing. And it goes without saying that in a time of major breaking news or unfolding crisis, it’s in bad taste to be pitching at all, unless there’s a legitimate reason.
#PitchFAIL. Probably the worst, yet most common, error is the pitch that goes to the wrong person. This can be someone who formerly covered sports but switched to entertainment months ago, or a writer who may have done one story on start-ups but primarily covers a regional beat. Job one in media relations is to scour media lists and keep them up-to-date and accurate. The best earned media placements are often a match between a great angle and the perfect journalist or blogger to cover it.
Now that you know what to avoid at all costs, get the scoop on what works. Download our free tipsheet, 5 Pitches That Work And Why.