Pitching stories can be daunting. Being on the receiving end of story pitches can be scary. Savvy media relations requires knowing how and when to pitch a story.
Mary Lorenz, writing the Halloween edition of Cision’s blog, interviewed journalists, shared examples of “scary PR pitches” and relayed their suggestions for successful story pitching.
Scary Bad Research: Pitches are sent to publications for stories that don’t fit or interest their readership – or the pitch is all tease and no substance. Scary good advice: “Don’t send mass pitches. Don’t send blind pitches. With both, you are wasting everyone’s time, and the more you do it, the less likely reporters will be open to anything you send or anything from your client.”
Follow-up Nightmares: Pesky emails that ask reporters if they have read a story pitch. Scary good advice: “Newsrooms are incredibly understaffed, so stop following up, especially when reporters tell you they pass on a pitch. All you do is land on the spam list.”
If reporters show an interest in your pitch, make it easy for them to pursue the story. A successful story pitch is a mutual effort by a PR professional and professional reporter with the goal of sharing news worth viewing.
Ghosting Reporter: A story pitch provokes interest, but on a follow-up call, the story pitch source is a ghost and never responds – or a pitch that leaves out the who, what and why of the story or a pitch with sketchy details, no quotes and unprepared sources. Scary good advice: “Expect questions. Respond promptly.”
Inauthentic Stranger: Pitches that try to make themselves familiar by using a reporter’s presumed nickname can “horrify” reporters. Scary good advice: “Don’t try to make a cold pitch sound like it’s coming from a childhood friend. It’s a distasteful tactic that immediately positions you as dishonest and to be avoided.”
Spooky Lack of Awareness: Pitching a valid story in the middle of a major event, such as a hurricane or some other crisis event, is a brain-dead move. Scary good advice: “Have a clue what reporters are dealing with at any given time. Pitching in the middle of a hurricane is a guarantee your pitch will never see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Zombie Release: A multi-page, detail-packed, cradle-to-grave pitch is a walking-dead zombie. Scary good advice: “Keep it brief, summarize key points and put your pitch in the body of an email. Instead of attaching files, include a link to the full release and media assets.”
Lorenz offers some Halloween tricks to score PR treats:
- Do your homework. Review what journalists write about and the beats they cover. Recognize what subjects that publications cover and who reads them (clue: look at the advertising). Direct your story pitch accordingly.
- Refine your media list. Assess your media list by its quality, not length. Reporters come and go. They change beats. If you don’t have time to keep track, engage a third-party media database (that’s what Cision provides).
- Respect reporter’s time. Newspaper staffs are thinner. They have little time to waste. And by trade they are skeptical. Don’t waste their time with fluff. Have the guts to tell your client the truth about whether something is newsworthy.
- Be authentic. Avoid being cute. Be up front about who you are and who you represent.
- Pay attention. Get out of your bubble and be aware of what else is occurring when you pitch a story. Newsjacking may be a much better option than pithing a story into a stiff wind.
- Help reporters. If reporters show an interest in your pitch, make it easy for them to pursue the story. Have quotes, news sources, background materials, links and B-Roll ready to share. A successful story pitch is a mutual effort by a PR professional and professional reporter with the goal of sharing news worth viewing.
- Keep it concise. Provide critical information in a crisp, clear way. If you can’t pitch a story in a few sentences, the problem is you haven’t mastered the subject well enough to pitch it effectively.