PR pros are continually working on the art of the pitch and making sure their stories and ideas arrive with a perfect delivery each time.
It’s just as important to learn what not to do when building a pitching strategy.
Journalists have been open about what bugs them, but it’s time to clear the air again. PR pros, these five pitching sins are doing you no favors:
1. Using way too much jargon.
Journalists don’t have time or patience to wade through jargon-filled press releases; a pitch that uses insider terms is even more unpalatable.
Some PR pros use jargon because a piece of news or process is hard to understand, but taking the time to explain it simply and briefly will get more reporters to look at (and use) your story idea.
Other PR pros use overinflated words to play up how wonderful a company or its products and services are. There’s no need; readers can deduce for themselves whether something deserves praise.
Need help identifying overused words? Play a game of “press release bingo.”
2. Adding journalists to a marketing email list.
This should be a no-brainer, but there are PR pros who blast out promotional offers to everyone or who add their entire contact lists to their organization’s newsletter blast.
Not only can this behavior potentially get you in trouble via the CAN-SPAM Act, it’s a surefire way to make a reporter never want to talk to you again.
Email lists are precious commodities, especially those that contain contacts you’ve spent time building relationships with. Don’t make your hard work go to waste by sending mass sales pitches to your media contacts.
3. Equating press releases with pitches.
Repeat after me: Press releases are not pitches.
A pitch is a short note you send to a reporter to see whether he or she is interested in your story. Sometimes a pitch will accompany a press release, affording the journalist a reason to open it and read your piece of news. Other times, pitches are sent separately.
Though you should hone your press releases to be killer stories, don’t slap the entire thing in an email and call the job done. Instead, pitches should offer an enticing nibble, leaving the reporter wanting more.
4. Being too persistent.
Persistence can pay off—both in the dating world and for PR pros—but there’s a fine line between being tenacious and being annoying.
When PR pros court a journalist, it’s important to give them time to consider things. Following up the next day is often pointless because the reporter hasn’t even had time to go through the 200 emails he or she received that day.
If enough time has passed, follow up with something extra—a statistic that stands out, a juicy quote or an additional piece of news that makes your story even more relevant.
Before you do that, take a look at what’s been written lately to see whether you’re on the right track. It could be that a reporter is just not into you or your story; if so, know when to pack up the proposal and move on.
5. Pitching non-news.
Journalists are busy. Don’t waste the limited time they already must use for getting a scoop, interviewing and writing—not to mention posting story links on social media.
[FREE GUIDE: 10 ways to improve your writing today]
Creating and maintaining a relationship with a reporter will get you in the door faster, but make sure you have something worthy and relevant before you make a pitch.
If your boss or client is pushing you to pitch something no one cares about, suggest revising your pitch into a compelling guest post. Several digital news sites and blogs welcome contributors, and a valuable how-to article or op-ed can go a long way to building up your presence among potential consumers.
What other sins should be purged, Ragan readers? Take part in our #RaganSocial Twitter chat tomorrow at 2 p.m. Central for an open-mic discussion on pitching dos and don’ts.