When pitching a story to journalists, the quality of the pitch can determine if you see your news in the headlines or it ends up being tossed in the garbage can. Many journalists are bombarded with several pitches a day, so if you’re unable to get their attention, your news may never see the light of day.
From spelling and grammar errors to pitches that are bland and uninteresting, there are several things that can go awry in a pitch.
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To craft a pitch that is well-received and interesting to journalists, avoid making these big mistakes:
- Being cold and impersonal. Journalists are people, too, not robots. They want to read fascinating stories and feel as though you’re trying to build a relationship with them. And at the most basic level, it’s important to make sure you address them correctly: If you’re trying to reach Victoria but you call her Veronica, she’ll probably hit the delete button before even opening the email.
- Using fast and blast PR. Spamming journalists’ inboxes with the exact same pitch you sent to 100 other people may seem numerically effective, but chances are, they’ll be able to tell you put zero effort into catering a pitch to them. Get to know journalists and what they’re into. If you’re pitching a breaking-news reporter about your client’s awesome new technology, they may feel slighted and won’t take the time to forward it to the appropriate reporter, and nor should they: That’s your job.
- “Hijacking” the news. It may seem like a good practice to tie your company’s news into major news stories, but no matter how hard you try, there’s likely no realistic connection between your new CEO and the presidential election. This move will come off as unnatural and forced, and most journalists will likely pass on the pitch.
- Crafting your press release as an afterthought. A press release is both a necessary and very helpful way to spread the word, garner attention and target hard to reach media. The issue however, is that press releases can appear dry, boring, and as if they were written using the same template. A press release should never be considered an after-thought. It must be the star of the show as it creates the foundation of your pitches. When crafting a press campaign, it’s important to imbue your press release with the same level of novelty, creativity and poise as the rest of your content.
- Spamming and not following up. Let’s face it: Some pitches get lost in the shuffle, causing busy journalists to miss your pitch altogether. Following up with a journalist a day or two after the initial pitch is just good practice, but doing so every day for the next week could land you a spot on the list of PR professionals to ignore. Give journalists some space and respect the fact that what you’re pitching may not be in their wheelhouse. Saving that relationship and respecting them will keep you in their good graces.
At the end of the day, you should focus on being natural, not pushy, and on developing a relationship with a journalist. Remain calm and keep pitching.
Author: Zachary Weiner is the CEO of Emerging Insider Communications, a boutique PR and content relations agency. He is a frequent guest writer, speaker and lecturer.