By Katie Oxenford
The Hoffman Agency, San Jose
As in any industry, PR has the good, the mediocre and the downright awful. There seems to be a growing trend of journalists taking PR pitches authored by the “downright awful” and putting them on display for the world to see. Thanks to social media, these bad (oftentimes cringe-worthy) pitches go viral and tarnish the name of the unfortunate PR person who lacked common sense, didn’t do his or her homework or, potentially, a mix of both.
Lucky for journalists, not all PR pitches are bad. The most reputable PR practitioners spend hours, even days, crafting well-researched and thought out pitches that are noticed by journalists (in a good way) and used as a basis for some of their most compelling stories.
Here are six steps that can be taken to make sure your PR pitch comes off as one of the latter, and doesn’t end up receiving undue attention from social media:
1. Pay attention to PR 101. Avoid typos and grammar mistakes, get first names right, and make sure your pitch is concise and easy to digest. There is nothing more offensive than sending Nicole an email addressed to “Kathleen.”
2. Narrow down your targets. So you have a media list of 200 potential reporters and bloggers that at one point or another wrote something relevant to your news. Reality check! There is no way you can effectively tailor your pitch to that many journalists in a meaningful way. No magic number exists on how many journalists you should pitch your news to, but a good rule of thumb is this: only reach out to the ones you have time to thoroughly research and verify that your news is relevant to what they cover. Journalists are smart and can tell when they’re receiving a blanketed pitch (a.k.a. spam). Don’t do it.
3. Lay off the overhyping. Just because your client thinks its new product is the best thing ever, doesn’t mean that it’s “revolutionary”/”innovative”/”groundbreaking.” Even if it is an interesting new product, you will lose credibility with the reporter right off the bat by overhyping. Stick with the facts, and clearly state the human angle. Even if it is groundbreaking, why should anyone care?
4. Don’t sound like a press release. Journalists don’t write their stories like news releases, so why would you present your idea in a way that reads like one? A pitch is an opportunity to write like a journalist and bring to light the compelling elements of the story you want the journalist to tell. Additionally, who wants to build a relationship with someone who sounds like a robot? Loosen up, be interesting and ditch the jargon.
5. Avoid saying how you’re the same as your competitors. It’s not newsworthy if you’re doing the exact same thing as your competitors. Stick to calling out what’s different. Oftentimes the “underdog” or startup in the industry will try to position itself as going head-to-head with the big players. Not a good idea. The big players are there because they’re already filling that space in a successful way. What are they not doing that your company/product can do better?
6. Ditch the self-promotion. While PR has paying clients, we are also responsible for delivering valuable content and ideas to journalists. Instead of being self-promotional, try to find ways to bring them new story ideas that haven’t been covered, or offer up an expert to comment on a story they’re working on. Resources like HARO and ProfNet provide great opportunities because the reporters let you know exactly what they need. Sometimes it’s not so obvious. Either way, take time to know the reporters’ interests and what makes them excited.