When a story idea sticks, cue the hallelujahs and pats on the back, you’ve done it. But when a story doesn’t stick, it’s time to start thinking about what you did wrong and where you went awkward.
There is nothing more annoying than reading a bad pitch. Sure, I’ve sent out my fair share and of course, every pitch can’t be perfect. But practice makes perfect, and this is a necessary skill to being successful in PR.
Here’s an inside look at some common pitching mistakes:
It’s too long.
Would you want to read through a 1,000-word email that rambles about something that could be summed up in three sentences? Of course not. The most important part of a good pitch is getting your idea out front. Cut through the introductory niceties and get to the point, quick. Why is your story newsworthy, how will it benefit readers, what’s the value in what you’re offering, etc.?
- Personally, I try to keep my pitches to five to seven concise sentences.
- Use bullet points.
- Bold your main story idea so it stands out.
Your idea is bad.
In a reporter’s eyes, you’re only as good as the story you pitch. If you continue to send non-newsworthy ideas, you will earn a reputation as someone who just doesn’t get it and your emails will be deleted before they are read. Find an idea that will make the reporter a hero for covering it.
- Use data, stats or trends to back up a story idea.
- Check to see if the reporter or publication has already covered the story.
- Reference an earlier story the reporter wrote to show your knowledge of his or her work and how your story fits within their beat.
Your pitch references an attached press release.
In case you haven’t noticed, it’s 2013. Most human beings have mobile devices, and there’s nothing more infuriating than having to open an attachment on a mobile device. Seriously.
So, do yourself and the reporter a favor, when you MUST send a press release (this is another discussion, as most reporters would just rather have a story idea or facts sent to them), copy the text of the release at the end of the email. This allows them to read through your information in one fluid scroll, and also eliminates issues related to the type of file you send. (Remember: not every one can open a .docx file.)
Your follow up is weak.
If you’re planning to write another email to follow up to your original email, don’t do it. Pick up the phone instead. Emails can get lost, accidentally deleted or overlooked. Having a conversation with a reporter about your idea is still your best bet for getting feedback and placement.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to a reporter and been thanked for calling to follow up because so few PR folks do it these days. This is probably because some PR folks get nervous or overwhelmed at the thought of actually talking to a reporter.
Here’s the thing: reporters are just people. You should not be intimidated to call them to discuss your brilliant idea, and don’t get discouraged if they turn you down…that just gives you an opportunity to find out what they are looking for.
- Develop relationships with reporters to understand the best method for communicating with them. Every reporter is different. I’ve developed a media relationship with one reporter in which I actually text them first to schedule a time to go over ideas further. And there are several that I regularly connect with on Twitter.
- If you get nervous calling a reporter on the phone or worry you won’t know what to say, make a list of the most important things to mention during your call.
So here’s to less awkward media relation skills. If my media friends are reading this blog, chime in…what are some tips you want to offer up to readers trying to steal your attention?
Photo credit: hilariously awesome screenshot from http://99problemsbutapitchaintone.tumblr.com/