Beyond Publicity: What Your PR Agency Can Do

A startup or early stage company that’s considering a public relations budget may be wondering what PR entails. While earned media visibility is the bread and butter of many PR campaigns, they can do far more for an organization. Any PR program that only includes media visibility is inadequate. While winning media coverage can yield immediate gratification, public relations represents a long-term commitment comprising many activities. The PR team or agency’s prime directive is to manage the reputation of the brand – and it does that from many angles.

8 things PR does beyond media pitching

PR strategy

The agency will take any company’s broad or vague notions about what it wants from a PR program and translate it into a clear, tailored strategy, which will inform a set of specific tactics. The PR team should develop this strategy based on the business goals of the organization, and in collaboration with other departments, like marketing and sales. See this earlier post to find out what the best PR strategies have in common.

Brand perception audit

All PR tactics serve to build, bolster, or reinvent a company’s brand reputation. A PR agency can conduct a brand perception audit to establish a baseline on which to build or change reputation. Based on the strengths and weaknesses of the brand’s current image, PR can structure a results-oriented program against clear objectives. The brand perception audit may provide key insight that informs the overall PR strategy.

Messaging

Before any team member sends out a pitch or drafts a byline, the PR team creates a plan for the brand’s messaging that is a foundation for its storytelling. The messaging will guide the team through every type of outreach. PR is fundamentally the art and science of telling the story of your brand, so the messaging should be evocative, concise, and most importantly, an authentic reflection of the company and its most compelling differentiators. For tips on perfecting your PR messaging, see our earlier post.

Content and more content 

Having a PR team is like renting a team of seasoned writers, podcasters and video producers at the ready. PR people are some of the most versatile writers around, often ghosting bylines on behalf of client thought leaders and skilled at emulating an executive’s voice while baking in the right messaging. For more on writing stellar bylines, see our earlier post. While such content is meant to earn media coverage, PR pros also routinely create collateral for owned media like blog posts, white papers, social posts, and case studies.

Leadership events

Owned and operated business events like discussion panels are productive PR activations for building media and industry relationships, generating quality content, boosting thought leadership credibility, and yes – even earning media coverage. A great panel evening should have a provocative (non-promotional) topic, free food and cocktails, panelists from key media and influencers, and a plan for creating assets like video, bylines, blog posts, and white papers after the event. For a deeper dive on putting on stellar panels, see this earlier post.

Speaking opportunities

Industry conferences are vital venues for lead generation and networking, as well as for for building authority. PR teams can help brands’ executive spokespeople earn plum speaking gigs by pitching provocative topics that fit into event themes and the hottest conversations of the day. PR can also provide valuable support for both earned and sponsored event appearances, guiding media outreach and assisting with content. For PR tips on getting speaking engagements, see this earlier post.

Shepherding award entries

Here at Crenshaw, we have a PR specialist (who happens to be yours truly) dedicated to both conferences and industry awards. Industry award wins give our clients bragging rights and enhance credibility with a third-party endorsement that comes from besting the competition. The PR team helps identify relevant, worthwhile award targets year-round, and helps compose the entry essays — an art onto themselves. Award entries are expensive, time consuming, and challenging, so check out these tips for winning in our earlier post.

Media training

Inexperienced executives shouldn’t commit to a media interview or TV appearance without media prep. Even with deep expertise, executives can stumble on a thought or miss opportunities to deliver the right messaging. PR can train executive spokepeople to avoid the myriad of possible mistakes that can happen when facing the press. Media training can prepare spokespeople for challenging reporters, show them how to be relaxed and natural, help develop key phrases, and control the direction of the interview.

5 Tips To Build Stronger Media Relationships In 2019

In tech PR, the story is the cornerstone of every good pitch. It all starts and stops there. Tech reporters, like most journalists, get hundreds of pitches each day. Most are ignored, even when they’re well-written. They’re like banner ads — the sheer volume makes tune-out inevitable. So, let’s face it — media relationships matter.

Building authentic rapport with a tech journalist helps a brand stand out amid a barrage of emails, DMs and phone calls. It removes the friction and uncertainty reporters encounter when dealing with an unknown brand or publicist. If you’ve provided them with a good tip or story in the past, maybe you have something good this time around. Unfortunately, building credible media relationships is harder than ever. The competition for a reporter’s time is fierce. And media are naturally skeptical about thirsty PR and comms people. As Drake has famously said, “no new friends.”

So how can tech brands build lasting bonds with media today? Here’s what works for me.

5 tips for stronger media relations

Play the long game

Real media relationships take time and effort. In the beginning, there is a courtship period. Grabbing a coffee has never created an instant friendship. But having multiple in-person meetings throughout the year, attending panels the reporter might be moderating, and interacting with him or her on social channels all work together to forge real connections over time. It’s not hard to do. After all, PR and reporters want the same thing: to tell great stories. Once that hard-earned bond is formed, it needs to be maintained over time like any other relationship. That long-game mindset is important.

Don’t be afraid of rejection

Some journalists will become your best friends. Others just won’t want to get to know you. They might even come to hate you. That happens. But one of the biggest hurdles to building relationships is the fear of rejection. If you’re in tech PR, you’ll have to overcome that fear. Ultimately, to get anywhere meaningful relationship-wise, brands and PR pros must put themselves out there. You have to make the initial awkward asks for a coffee, to grab a drink or to go to karaoke (never underestimate the power of poor singing to form bonds). See this earlier article on how to avoid media relations mistakes.

Stop selling 24/7

A real relationship never feels transactional, and PR pros enjoy real relationships with journalists. If you approach every reporter interaction as if it’s a sales opportunity, you won’t get very far. Sure, you might get some occasional coverage, but you won’t have a relationship that can deliver better quality stories with greater consistency. PR people and reporters often work in collaboration to create great stories. To get there, you need interactions that don’t always have an explicit marketing or sales benefit. Don’t grill them on what stories they’re working on; find out what’s going on in their lives. As in most aspects of public relations, salesmanship has its place, but it shouldn’t be the centerpiece of your communication.

Promote their work

Journalists today are under pressure to generate views and clicks, and we can help. It’s never a bad idea to follow the top media in your area and boost their stories by sharing them with your own social networks. PR people are natural born news junkies, consuming the morning news right after the alarm goes off and during the commute. Here at Crenshaw, we flag the biggest tech headlines of the day each morning and often share them on our social channels through the day. Another way we promote reporters’ work (and their personal brand) is by enlisting them to moderate a client’s event, like a discussion panel — which has the reciprocal benefit of increasing credibility for those clients.

Get out of the office

It’s easy to reach people through email or social media, and it’s great to stay in touch that way. But relationships take on another dimension when you run into someone in real life – at events, conferences, social outings, or a simple sit-down over coffee or something stronger. There are limits to how much rapport you can build over phone and email. There’s no substitute for looking someone in the eye. Face-to-face interactions make you (and the reporter) more memorable. So, if you’re the shy type who likes to hole up in the office, you may be missing out on fun, productive media relationships.

Family PR Lessons For (Surviving) The Holidays

The holidays are a wonderful time to take a moment to reflect on our blessings, as well as to spend quality time with loved ones. Sometimes we travel long distances to visit with family with whom we rarely spend time — which can make for awkward communication. Families practice their own inscrutable form of PR when reunited for the holidays. Here are some PR-inspired tips for surviving the giving season without getting a migraine.

Stay on message

PR pros know that staying on message is fundamental to rocking a great media interview. It takes discipline and agility to roll with a challenging reporter’s questions. The same goes in family “PR.” For some, it’s essential to not allow conversations to flow into hot topics like politics or religion. For best results, anticipate tricky questions from Uncle Gus or Nanna. Practice answers that gently direct conversations into “pre-approved” topics like football, your new boyfriend, or Nanna’s summer Disney cruise.

PR rules for apologizing 

For some, holiday gatherings may present an offer to bury the hatchet or resolve a long-simmering dispute. Apologies go with family like apple pie with ice cream. An ideal apology contains: admission of wrongdoing, real contrition, and a correction plan. You should also nip new problems in the bud. When you forget to pick up your cousin at the airport due to an early gin and tonic, there will be no way to evade conflict. Don’t be like Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, who said “we are sorry” – which would only serve to shift blame to the other family members. Finally, inform your cousin about your clear and actionable steps to remedy the problem, by rushing to pick her up or paying for a Super Shuttle, for example. To further show contrition, offer her the last piece of pecan pie.

Pitch your story to grandpa

A classic codicil of media relations is to carefully research your media targets instead of firing out a wide, spray and pray pitch. PR pros waste their own and the journalists’ time by sending stories to reporters on the wrong beat. Once you’ve determined that you want to tell relatives that you’ve moved back in with your parents to take care of dad while his broken leg mends (and not because  you lost your money in online football betting); you should pitch your story only to those targets interested in that type of narrative. Certainly tell your gullible uncle and your unconditionally accepting grandpa; but refrain from pitching your cynical aunt or your big brother, who doesn’t cover your beat.

Family influencers

Public relations is the engine and gatekeeper of reputation management. If your life has become the stuff of speculation within the family, a few PR-inspired tactics might be effective in changing perception. Maybe your family sees your burgeoning acting/restaurant career as comic fodder. Build credibility by mentioning your appearance on an acting podcast or your last call-back. If your efforts fails, enlist the aid of an influencer. Bring a successful actor to dinner to re-frame their perceptions — an invaluable third-party endorsement. Be careful: an influencer guest can be mistaken for a love interest, sending the narrative cascading in the wrong direction! Of course, if the family’s negative chatter is not far off base, a full rebranding effort might be necessary, which would require a long-range marketing/PR initiative covering Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even New Year’s.

Pitch an exclusive to your aunt

If a PR pro has a truly newsworthy story, it may be advisable to pitch it as an exclusive to a key outlet before going wide. You have amazing news —a pregnancy, for example — but want to make maximum impact in light of a sibling’s constant attention hogging. An embargoed release is rarely effective in holiday family scenarios; they always get broken too early. Consider pitching the story to one key relative in private. Tell the one person everybody else listens to the most (and who can’t keep a secret): let’s call her Aunt Phyllis. She is keenly interested in the reproductive beat and will do a deeper, more comprehensive story, which will likely get picked up by everyone else in the family, then amplified on social channels. You will be the center of attention, taking advantage of earned and shared media wins.

These and other “family PR” tactics can help to make this season a fun, non-political, controversy-free holiday. Happy holidays from all of us at Crenshaw Communications!

Media Relations Dos And Don’ts For Holiday PR

media relations dos and don'ts for Holiday Pitching

Tying media relations activities to key calendar milestones is a time-honored PR tactic, because it works. But if holiday PR opportunities are approached carelessly, they can be squandered. From Labor Day to New Year’s Eve, fall holidays probably offer the best occasions for media coverage, but the approach needs to be relevant, respectful, and creative.

Holiday season takes thoughtful pitching

Don’t force the story

Your PR team may be determined to grab some visibility during a holiday season, but if the story doesn’t fit, don’t force it. The Christmas/Hanukkah time in particular is so cluttered that a marginal pitch that might slip through on another occasion will probably be tossed out. Having said that, the tie doesn’t need to be literal; for example, Halloween might be an excellent time for a cybersecurity pitch, or even a “scary” near-death business story about an entrepreneur.

Do consider the meaning of holidays

A tone-deaf treatment of a solemn holiday can offend audiences or even risk backlash. Even Memorial Day – generally considered the unofficial start of summer and therefore somewhat disconnected from its origins – deserves respectful events or announcements tied to the day itself. Trickier still are occasions that have special meaning to specific populations, like Martin Luther King day, or that are controversial, like Columbus Day (now known as Indigenous Peoples Day in many areas).

Commercializing a serious holiday should be avoided, and it pays to consider the current news environment when planning a specific media pitch. Also, in our opinion, 9/11 is off-limits for anything that isn’t directly connected to the day and its survivors. Remember this absolutely tasteless 9/11 mattress sale ad that featured the mattresses falling like towers? Of course no PR person would create such a pitch, but it’s a good reminder that for many people, serious holidays have deep and emotional meaning.

Do release some relevant data

Solid data-driven PR story pitches are always welcomed by reporters, but especially so during calendar milestones or big breaking stories. It may make sense to generate employment-related statistics on Labor Day, or data on Jewish tradition observance in advance of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The weeks leading up to New Year’s, of course, offer a classic media window for year-end lists and projections for the coming year – all the more compelling when accompanied by data visualizations.

Do use editorial calendars

For data-driven PR campaigns that rest on surveys or other research information, your data bureau will need to launch its survey or analysis well ahead of time. Consider the calendar when planning an announcement or new product launch to avoid conflicts or times when editorial or broadcast staffs are reduced. It’s always wise to keep tabs on publication ed-cals at key outlets, taking note of holiday plans that present pitching opportunities. For example, this October Ad Age’s calendar indicates plans to release “The Scary Issue: Brand fails, horror stories, and superstitions” — perhaps an opportunity for that cybersecurity pitch, or maybe a chance for a brand to show its human side with a story about a failed initiative or setback.

Do work the “news hole”

The week after Christmas is nearly always a news desert, which can present great opportunities for soft media pitches during that quieter time. But of course those stories need to be locked and loaded ahead of time, because chances are good that most media outlets are working on skeleton crews. Those few reporters that are working will be looking for good content, and the entire process may be more streamlined in the “news hole.” Not only might a good byline be picked up more promptly, but it may also enjoy a longer shelf life.

Do celebrate media relationships  

The December holidays are an ideal time to cultivate media relationships the old fashioned way, face to face at parties and informal lunches. PR pros and journalists rarely have time to meet, so holiday get-togethers can be the best opportunity to do some socializing. So don’t hesitate to RSVP and have some fun while you can, before things heat up again in January!

Building Media Lists That Get Results

It’s easy to relegate media list development to the remedial PR file —  things that are too basic to analyze or improve. But for PR and media relations people, a good media database is critical. Even the most stellar pitch is useless if the wrong people are targeted; a carefully selected list of fewer reporters will yield better results than a spray-and-pray approach. What’s more, the universe of journalists is always changing, so the humble media list is something that requires not only external database tools, but constant updating, re-creation, and reinvention.

PR tips for killer media lists

Consider all angles

The desired audiences for a story depend on the corporate communications goals involved, whether general visibility, opinion leadership, or product support. If your company has secured $10 million in Series B funding, it seems like a straightforward business/entrepreneurship pitch, but there may be additional sectors that maximize receptivity to the story. These may include industry beat reporters, local media outlets, women’s interest or multicultural media (in the case of a female or minority founder), or even lifestyle press. The target audiences will dictate which media to include, but be creative when thinking through the story possibilities.

Themes, angles, and beats

Once you’ve determined the story theme and the audience, you’ll need to consider all the possible angles from which you can present the story to the media. While this may seem easy and obvious, it takes a certain talent for “creative analysis” to avoid missing pitch opportunities. If your company that just secured the $10m is about to unveil a new mobile application that alerts you when an ex-boyfriend is nearby, then you may have some interesting crossover of angles to pitch, from relationships and lifestyle to data privacy to mobile marketing. Next, to choose the right reporters and outlets, you’ll need to brainstorm possible beats that might match your story angles. Once audiences, pitch angles and story beats have been confirmed, it’s time to jump into Cision.

De”Cisions”

Using a database platform like Cision may seem like a streamlined and easy way of tossing together a media list. But to find the correct reporter contacts for your pitch, you’ll need to speak Cision’s language. Basically, you translate your story’s themes into keywords that match desired beats. “Relationships” beat writers can be searched using keywords like lifestyle, romance, and women’s interests, while mobile marketing beat writers are found under terms like mobile apps, mobile computing, and mobile communications. But be careful not to go down the keyword rabbit hole into the wrong beats. While a mobile apps reporter may like the story, a telecommunications or consumer electronics reporter will be annoyed with your offbeat pitch.

Good media lists improve relations

It may seem harmless to fire off email blasts to a hastily prepared list of media contacts, but every irrelevant or inappropriate email will deduct media relations points from your PR account. That annoyed reporter may not open your next note, or any others after that. Note that you will keep the lists for different verticals separate, since they require different pitches. Don’t forget to consider the size and prominence of the targeted outlets. Some story angles will be so broad or high-profile as to demand national publications with huge circulations, while others may be tailor-made for trade outlets, smaller publications, or bloggers. We strive to avoid wasting any journalist’s time. See this earlier post for more tips on good media relations.

Read the fine print

When parsing the list of media contacts, it’s easy to miss clues that disqualify them from your outreach. Though they may cover the correct beat, high-ranking journalists like editors-in-chief or managing editors don’t review pitches from PR people. Additionally, keep your eye on the fine print in Cision contact listings. If it says, “not an appropriate PR contact,” trust that advice. If the reporter lists no contact email address or has a generic like stories@USAToday.com, do not include them. After you’ve exported your media list from Cision, it is imperative to double check the contacts using Google, since Cision is not always updated in real time.

Don’t stop at Cision

Cision is simply the starting point. Googling will not only serve as a double-check, but it yields additional reporter contacts. Use Google to check and see how often your listed journalists are published and if they tend to write relevant content. A contact listed under the “women’s interests” beat may write about anything from career to family health. And if a reporter has published only a single story in the past year, it’s a good clue that the contact’s information has not been updated in Cision. You may find that you have multiple reporter contacts listed for many outlets. Some PR pros believe that you should only pitch a single reporter per outlet, but we believe that in today’s fast-paced mediascape, pitching two or three reporters at an outlet is perfectly acceptable. Plus, some outlets like Forbes online enlist the aid of lots of freelance contributors who are not on staff.

A meticulously compiled media list of 30 reporters beats a haphazardly thrown together list of 200 any day of the week. Knowing your story themes and angles, the target audiences, and the right outlets – all in consideration of PR goals – will help pull together the best possible list. Consistently solid media research will lead to greater success and better media relations, which for most PR professionals is a top priority.

PR Tips For Reactive Media Pitches

A company’s expertise on a subject can become instant PR currency when that topic is in the news. PR teams can take advantage of sudden extra relevance by immediately pitching a client as a news source to media hungry for pertinent expertise. Some call it newsjacking. But in truth nothing is being “jacked” or stolen; instead something is being offered — ideally in the form of informed commentary. Here are the PR fundamentals for reactive media pitches.

PR tips for reactive media pitches

Combine automation with human monitoring

PR people are news junkies, and many start scanning the headlines before hitting the snooze button. But eyeballs can’t catch everything, so most set up digital news alerts. From Google Alerts to more formalized media monitoring platforms like Cision, there are number of tools to help identify relevant items quickly. For example, if you rep an online roommate pairing service, you will want alerts on news topics like the apartment rental market, housing regulations, or even roommate horror stories. Once you spot the opportunity to showcase your client’s expertise, it’s time to pull together a smart media pitch – on the double. Keep in mind if you’re seeking to be included in some reactive news, “day of” is essential. But contrary to convention wisdom, some stories may by their nature have the legs to last.

Reactive is a not always a rush job in B2B PR

If the top media targets are in tech or trade press, some breaking stories have such large ramifications that they could never be resolved quickly. Many tech-oriented narratives, from ongoing privacy breaches to Facebook’s role as a tool for Russian disinformation in the 2016 election will be discussed for months and years after the fact. Another example is the YouTube brand safety crisis.  The story of major brands finding their ads featured along side extremist propaganda and pornography has been going on for many months. So subject-matter experts in the many segments of ad tech had multiple opportunities to offer expert commentary as the story evolved. A good PR team will milk the ongoing opps for all they’re worth.

Ready before the news even happens

When assembling that brief but compelling pitch, the PR pro will include a quote from the subject-matter expert or SME. To save back and forth, we often create a spokesperson quote for client approval instead of asking for a comment and waiting for a busy client to craft it. Over time, the PR team can build a library of pre-approved client content for use when relevant news hits. It requires legwork, but prepared content allows for a fast reaction, and the media like it so they can file quickly. We have seen this strategy work particularly well on behalf of our cyber-security-focused clients. Data breaches and hacks have become almost a daily occurrence, necessitating a steady stream of reusable content. Having that library has been critical to our success.

Choose the right media

The PR team should compile a mini-media list that begins with those journalists who reported the trending topic. Though their stories have already been published, many will retroactively include insightful commentary into their pieces. Others will also write follow-ups that lean on your SME’s expertise. After that, you can broaden the outreach in a follow-up. Other reporters on relevant beats may be hustling to cover the same topic, and your SME may be a big help in bringing a fresh perspective to the story. You may then want to cast the net more widely to those media who may not have considered the topic – in which case the existing context will be a good selling point.

Don’t forget owned media

While the PR team is pitching media, the client can make good use of owned media channels, building more in-depth collateral and content through whitepapers, vlogs and podcasts, or guest blog posts. These assets can be powerful forms of thought leadership and effective marketing materials for customers or prospects seeking information about the breaking news. As a bonus, the content can also be used be re-purposed in briefing materials to help ready a spokesperson for any interview requests that require more depth versus a quick soundbite.

The reactive media pitch by definition cannot be planned, and it takes extra attention and agility, but the outcomes can be very positive. In a PR world where you’re always battling for a reporter’s attention, a reactive news opportunity can be a quick win for the client and the agency. As well, it’s often a great way to get on a journalist’s radar and begin a longer-term relationship.

Anatomy Of A Pitch: Winning Tech PR Tips

effective tech media pitch
In my last post we offered eight tips on maximizing public relations success for tech clients. Now, let’s take a look at the anatomy of an effective tech media pitch.

A great softball pitcher doesn’t simply close her eyes, rear back, and heave the ball towards the batter, hoping for the best. She chooses a pitch based on the game situation, the skill of the other team, and weather conditions.

A media pitch is not very different. Let’s examine the above example. {A couple of names have been changed to protect the excellent.}

The Grip

The Grip is the part that the media outlet can’t see. All the research, preparation, and consideration ensure that the correct story will be hand-pitched to the right media. If the grip isn’t right, the pitch will fall short. The first thing we notice is a fascinating, newsworthy story. In this case, the PR pro has targeted media contact Bruce, at a top business publication, with whom he has a trusted working relationship. He knows the types of stories Bruce needs; he looks for CEO features, technology trend stories, and colorful personality profiles offering business insights. Points for Mike’s respect of this journalist’s time by not pitching him blindly.

The Stare Down

The Stare Down is the first part of the pitch the journalist sees, so it can make or break it. It’s the subject line, and it must be direct, concise, and inviting. The journalist must see the essence of the story before opening the email. It should never be misleading. If the writer opens the pitch and sees that he’s been tricked, he’s not likely not open any pitches from this PR guy again. Mike knew his client had a programming unit originally headquartered in Crimea, and that business was disrupted when Russia annexed the area in 2014. It’s not a new story, yet the founder’s decision to relocate her employees but stay in Ukraine said a lot about her and the company. And it’s highly unusual. So he let it lead, with the inspired subject line, “Putin annexed half my startup!”

The Wind-Up

The Wind-Up begins the pitch with a tantalizing start. A compelling story introduces you to the characters, gives big picture context, and offers an example that sets up conflict or suspense. It also sprinkles in details that further underscore the client company’s credibility. If the story is told well, the reader will want to know what happens next. When Bruce read “overnight, her business was no longer legal,” he wanted to know what the CEO did to save her company. But notice that Mike doesn’t go too far in explaining the rest of the story. There’s no need to oversell here.

Effective tech media pitch

The Release

The Release serves up the satisfying resolution of the dramatic question. In this case Amy’s company succeeded in overcoming obstacles to thrive, achieve business goals and make a prestigious outlet’s “best of” list. Normally we wouldn’t mention another publication’s coverage or endorsement in a pitch to a journalist, but in this case Mike decides to include the Inc. magazine recognition because it adds credibility for Palladium as a hot startup. He’s appealing a little to Bruce’s “fear of missing out” on a rising star, and he’s really pitching a larger story about the link between the company’s commitment to its employees and its success. He has effectively supplied a story roadmap for the journalist.

The Follow-Through

In the Follow-Through, the PR pro does two important things: He makes the ask in a polite, straightforward manner. If Bruce doesn’t respond, Mike should wait about 24 hours before following up. Further, Mike needs only follow up once before moving on. This shows that he respects the demands of Bruce’s profession.

So there’s the anatomy of an effective tech media pitch for B2B companies. However, the PR pro’s job isn’t complete. A pitcher must be ready to field the ball after the batter connects. If the reporter wants to pursue the story and the PR contact responds in a plodding, uncertain manner, it will reflect poorly on the PR team and the client. When the reporters says he wants to do the interview and plans to write a story, it’s time to get on base —  arrange the interview and supply every element the outlet needs to make it home.

5 Ways To Kill A PR Pitch

The PR pressure is on. An announcement is imminent and the task of generating media coverage is in the capable hands of the seasoned PR team. They have written a solid press release and created professional, individualized approaches to a short list of meticulously researched media.

Now it’s go time. For the best possible outcome, avoid these five pitch-killers.

Getting the details wrong. Should be obvious, but a little pre-pitch fact-checking is vital. It’s also wise to verify that that your media contact didn’t just cover something similar, or that his/her beat hasn’t changed. Pitches are also doomed by misspelled names, wrong salutations, or telltale font changes.

Overhyping with meaningless words.  Game-changing! Fantastic! Unique! Maybe, but most likely not. It’s best to tell a brief, factual story to illustrate what’s being pitched and include verifiable data and links to “hot-topic” news to create relevance.

Complicating the story. Let’s respect the busy, world-weary journalist who has seen it all by keeping it simple. It’s best to excise the extraneous from the pitch and provide one concise (under 200 words) and compelling reason to respond.

Striking a false -or demanding -note. An overly cheery “Hey Randy, hope you had swell weekend, we think this would be a great profile piece,” is likely to be very off-putting. We can raise our game by referencing a past connection that had a successful outcome or a previous story – but only if relevant, not arrogant or sycophantic.

Being too needy. Begging is the flip side of demanding.  Albert Brooks famously said in the movie Broadcast News, “Wouldn’t this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If ‘needy’ were a turn-on?” Well, they’re not. Rather than conveying how much you need a story, convey what a newsworthy idea is on offer. It’s a subtle shift in presentation but a worthwhile one in outcome.