Tips on pitching the media, part two

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Photo by Dan Smedley on Unsplash

Last week, I shared some things to consider when pitching the media based on my own work as a freelance writer as well as input from fellow media over the years.

Here are a few additional tips to help PR folks build better relationships and develop new ones with media:

  • Follow directions: While this might sound snarky, I would say about 25% of PR people who I send my regular “source request/media opportunity” emails to each month actually reply in the way I need and blatantly request in bold with examples (single spaced, Calibri, website with www not http, phone number with dots versus hyphens, no bullet points, link to photo, exact name of business as you want it seen in print, word count requirements, et al). Those 25% get in my stories 99% more often than the others, even if I have already done a ton of other stories on them already. Most media need things in specific formats for a reason – we need to cut and paste, we need to merge 50 email pitches into one document, etc).
  • Stop with the “For Immediate Release” in your materials. This tip actually came thanks to Adam Kress, a former member of the media who once wondered in an online group why PR people always sent releases with that phrase. Because…duh. At that time, HMA had said phrase on all news releases, so I initially took offense (such thin skin for a PR person, right?). But once I started reading the comments on his post – dozens from media across the country – I sort of got it. Media want today’s date. Media want context before the email. Media want you to make a direct connection with them. Media often either want “exclusives” or “first rights” to the story so by saying “for immediate release” it tells them you are sending the release and pitch to a zillion people at the same time, not just them or a select group.
  • Add hashtags and social media links. Save the media time and spell out the hashtags and social media channels they might want to use in a story on your client or brand. We often haven’t looked all of that up until we are in the middle of posting the story…often from our phones. That means we have to go to another screen and search for who and what to tag, which is a nightmare if the brand name is something common as 50 options pop up.
  • Avoid the urge to BCC. At least once a day, I get what is clearly a “blanket pitch” to a gazillion other media. Here is how I know: the PR person is listed as the recipient of the email, not me. It means I am one of many emails in the BCC bar. Who else did you pitch? How many people? Did you already reach out to a dozen other folks at the same outlet? If you BCCed 20 people at the same outlet, for example, and all like the story…all will pitch to their editor, producer or boss (maybe within minutes of each other). It makes us look bad to them. It makes you look bad to us. Just a lose-lose situation for all. Now, for general news releases, it is fine. But never do this with a pitch!
  • Communicate with your client. This is a major sticking point with me. Allow me to break it down: you pitch me on your restaurant client. I visit their website and Instagram to see if it is a fit for any of my columns (bonus if you actually pitched a specific story to one of my columns, but that rarely happens). I email you back saying something like “I would like to feature your chef in my chef conversations column. Here are links to three samples of how this looks in print. I don’t have a list of questions for the interview, but it is a general conversation about their lives, inspirations, how they got into the kitchen, favorite things to do outside of work. Once I interview him or her, I will send notes on what we discussed for you to fact check. Please share the samples with your client as well as how the column works.” I kid you not: at least 50% of the time when I talk to the chef (or whomever) and say “Thanks for taking the time. Did your team share with you the samples and details on the story to get the vibe and general questions?” – the answer is “no.” They have no idea what I am talking about. They aren’t prepared. They don’t even know what publication it is for or when it comes out. Now, I know sometimes clients space or forget what we say, but taking the extra time to make sure they are prepped and comfortable is a big deal. It saves me time. It saves them time. It saves you time.

What are some tips you have for PR folks? Share away!

Alison Bailin
Alison Bailin
Senior Account Executive Alison has a lot to say…about pretty much everything...all the time. From the current state of public relations to the social media impact on Shark Week to crisis communications in the sports world, Alison’s blogs are focused on “amusing through her PR musings,” and then some. Check out Alison's full bio

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