5 mistakes PR pros make when pitching the media


Sam Lauron
5 mistakes PR pros make when pitching the...

As a PR professional, your job revolves around finding ways to get your client into the news, which quite frequently involves pitching the media. But whether you’re a veteran of the industry or are just starting your PR career, there are a few common pitching mistakes that all PR pros can make. 

While we all make mistakes from time to time, these pitching don’ts can quickly become costly if they are made too often. With that in mind, here are five mistakes to avoid making when pitching the media. 

Not doing your research

Imagine for a second that you’re a journalist on the receiving end of a pitch. You’re looking for the next big story to cover for your outlet when an email from a PR pro pops up in your inbox. Eager to see if it contains the type of story you’re seeking, you begin to read the pitch and realize it has nothing to do with your beat. It’s so off base that not only do you delete the email out of frustration, but you’re probably not going to want to open any future emails from this particular person, either.

As a PR professional, not doing your research is probably the worst mistake you can make when pitching the media. Poor research on your part is not only a waste of the journalist’s time, but yours as well. What’s the point of sending a pitch if it’s not even relevant to the journalist or worse, the media outlet? 

To avoid making a costly mistake like this, simply do your research ahead of time. A quick Google search will let you know which outlets a journalist writes for, which beats they cover, and recent stories they’ve written. It’s also crucial to maintain an organized media contact list that you can update as reporters make moves. Make sure the contacts are categorized by outlet and topic, and include any additional information like previous contact you’ve had with them. 

Sending a mass email

In the same vein as not thoroughly conducting any research, sending impersonal pitches often doesn’t fly either. Journalists want to feel like you have an exclusive story for them to tell, so their interest level goes way down when they receive a broad pitch that was sent to a massive list. 

Instead, take the time to send individual pitches to the journalists you think would be the best fit for the story angle. And make the pitch personal: address them by name, lead with something that will connect you to them—like commenting on a recent article they wrote—and then go into your pitch. It also helps to connect with journalists on Twitter or LinkedIn. This way, you can build an informed relationship with them prior to pitching. By engaging with them and gaining insight into what they’re interested in, you not only have a better understanding of what they may be looking for but you also increase your chances of receiving a response. 

The email is too wordy

When it comes to the actual pitch, what you say and how you say it can make or break a media opportunity. A common mistake when pitching the media is sending an email that is far too long. This is a mistake for a couple reasons. 

First, a journalist’s time is limited. The last thing they want to do is navigate a lengthy email in the midst of a busy day. Second, a pitch needs to get to the point as soon as possible in order to capture the journalist’s interest. Even if you have the best story angle or the most interesting piece of data, if it’s buried between a few long paragraphs, the journalist won’t even bother looking for it. 

As a PR professional, you need to be able to succinctly get your message across. The worst thing your pitch can do is fail to convince the journalist why this story matters to their audience. 

When writing your pitch to the media, keep it brief while including all of the necessary information. It’s also wise to keep the formatting in mind. Make your main points scannable by using bullet points, and use data when available as numbers can draw a reader in more than words.

Waiting until the last minute 

Proper planning is another essential component of media pitching that should not be overlooked. 

Timing is important for both parties. If you are pitching an event, a funding announcement, or another timely topic, then you want to be sure that you give yourself plenty of lead time to pitch the right media contacts so the potential story will be published in time. 

It’s also important to keep the media’s timeline in mind, too. Outlets plan their content months in advance, so journalists are often thinking ahead. While there are some outlets or situations that have a quick turnaround time-—namely news publications or breaking news stories—and most everything is digital these days, it’s still important not to wait until the last minute when pitching. Pitch as soon as you have everything lined up so you can get your story on the media’s radar long before you need the story to be shared. 

Not following up 

As mentioned earlier, journalists are busy. Their inboxes are overflowing and they’re often working on tight deadlines, so it’s not uncommon for them to miss a few emails as they come through. This is why following up is crucial when pitching the media—and it’s often something even the most seasoned PR pros overlook. If you aren’t receiving responses to your pitches, send a quick follow up email as a gentle reminder. 

It’s important to know when to move on, however. According to a recent Muck Ruck survey of PR professionals and journalists, 55% of journalists are okay with one follow up email, but only 27% prefer a second follow up. When it comes to timing of the follow up, according to that same survey, 91% of PR professionals and 83% of journalists agree that it’s best to send it within one week. 

About Sam Lauron: Sam is a freelance writer and content marketing manager for Swyft, which is a PR firm in Austin and Houston and a top digital marketing agency in Denver since its founding in 2011. Swyft recently opened a satellite office where it offers PR in San Francisco.

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