Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock with your phone face down, then you know the latest trend on social media is the collective slander of bad PR pitches reporters receive and screenshot for their followers to mock on Twitter. This new era of public shaming happens when a reporter takes to their timeline to expose their entire exchange with a publicist, sometimes going as far as including the cringe-inducing pitch along with the sender’s email address—yikes!
Whether you forgot to cross-check before deciding on that subject line, or were completely tone-deaf and thought it’d be clever to weave your client’s new beauty launch into a COVID-19 story, you’ve now annoyed a reporter and risk the chances of having your pitch land as the subject of ridicule on Twitter.
Last month, Sage Communications’ Director of Content, Amber Corrin moderated a DC Startup Week panel discussion where esteemed editors and reporters shared their tips, tricks, (and major ticks) when on the receiving end of news pitches from PR pros. From cold pitching to following-up and perfecting the ‘art of the tease’ when offering a journalist your client’s story, here are a few guidelines to follow when pitching to the press to ensure your next PR campaign won’t turn into an online disaster.
Don’t send a dissertation as a pitch…ever
Hold back every urge to overcomplicate things by trying to be fancy with fluffed-out jargon within your outreach. The goal is to simplify your message by conveying your hook in a way that gives the reporter just enough of a tease to execute the story in their own way. You can do this by mentioning your client’s product or announcement upfront, concisely explaining what they do and your reason for writing, while making sure it is timely and relevant to their beat. And if you’re worried about your pitch becoming too lengthy, providing links to external sources or offering the reporter the opportunity to speak with your client directly, is a great way to cut back on words.
Do read the room
COVID-19 won’t be leaving the news cycle any time soon, but that doesn’t give you the green light to try weaving your every client into trending headlines. Read the room as much as possible to avoid agitating reporters or appearing to be insensitive or tone-deaf within your pitch.
Don’t follow up six times in one week
The art of the follow-up is almost as important as the pitch itself. Keep your follow up short and sweet while having in mind that reporters are typically busy people working around tight deadlines. Give the reporter at least 24-48 hours to open your pitch and get back to you before you check in with them again.
Do your homework
Instead of blasting an extensive media list with 500+ reporters who mightbe interested in covering your client’s announcement, try spending that time reading up on the most recent articles of the editor you plan to target to ensure they are the most appropriate contact for your pitch. Doing your research beforehand could save you from emailing that cybersecurity reporter who could care less about your bridal client’s new app launch, choose your contact wisely and strategically.
If anything, the best thing to keep in mind when reaching out to the press is that the people on the receiving end of your pitch aren’t robots, and obtaining press coverage isn’t a simple matter of firing off pitches and hoping for the best. Good PR reps are actually able to build and retain relationships through their outreach. The goal is to not only land the story but to build up a rapport with reporters so that you never have to face the consequences of your pitch becoming the next viral topic of embarrassment on Twitter.