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6 Ways to Avoid a Journalist’s Public Shaming

August 19, 2015 Bradford Group Administrator

No one likes being called out – especially not those on either side of the sensitive, highly criticized PR/journalist relationship.

I know firsthand how it feels to be called out by a journalist. It is a moment that has never escaped my mind when I send out pitches to this day. Basically, it scarred me.

As an intern for another agency, I was tasked with inviting local food writers and bloggers to a restaurant’s special event to generate buzz about its new product launch. I did my due diligence: listened to my client for instructions, drafted a pitch that was approved by my supervisor and found the most appropriate contacts.

And then this happened.

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Ouch. The reporter copied and pasted my entire six-paragraph long pitch. I got called out in front of nearly two million Sacramento Bee online readers, or at least those that followed the ‘Appetizers’ blog.

Nowadays, journalists don’t think twice about tweeting out a “Bad PR Pitch of the Day,” publicly shaming the PR professional, who, like me, was probably told by his or her client or superior to “blast it out.”

Take it from me and follow these six pitching DON’Ts to avoid this embarrassment:

1. DON’T be lazy. It takes roughly 37 seconds to log in to Cision and find a technology reporter who works at TechCrunch. Wait, aren’t they all technology reporters? What about a technology reporter that covers user experience design specifically? Well, you’re going to have to dig a little deeper. Spend five extra minutes to browse the publication’s site to see which writers cover your client’s niche and look them up on Twitter for more information about them. This allows you to customize and personalize pitches to the journalists who actually care about your story topics.

2. DON’T send a “brief” 10-paragraph pitch. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Keep it short and get to the point in the first sentence, if not the subject line. So, you have a complicated client? Simplify the news in ways the reporter (and his readers) can understand it.

3. DON’T stretch your pitch. If you represent a company that practices unemployment law, no, you can’t jump on the back-to-school bandwagon. Focus on what your client excels at, and don’t try to force stories that don’t make sense.

4. DON’T trick reporters. Some PR professionals believe that if they add a “Re:” to the subject line in follow-ups, reporters will get back to them because they will think they had previously responded to the inquiry. Yes, this has happened. And it’s not the way to make a good name for yourself.

5. DON’T practice perseverance. This probably sounds un-American, but in PR, not being persistent is a way to stay on a journalist’s good side. Sometimes it’s OK to take ‘no’ for an answer. If a reporter doesn’t want to cover a story, ask him what types of pitches he’s most interested in or how he likes to be pitched. Next time, use this new knowledge to send him a personalized pitch that’s bound to be right up his alley.

6. DON’T make silly mistakes. Proofread your pitch before you send it out. Did you spell the reporter’s name right? Do you have the right publication name listed in the email? Are there any spelling errors?

What other PR pet peeves do you have?

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