As PR pros, we all know there are those pitching missteps that journalists loathe. There are surveys telling us what they prefer and advice on how they like to be pitched.
Did you know, though, that there’s a Twitter account where journalists share #PRfails?
Yes, @SmugJourno retweets reporters’ #PRfail tweets.
It’s a fun account to follow, as not only are many of them laugh-out-loud funny, but you can also gain valuable insight into what not to do when pitching journalists. Have a look:
Another PR triumph. Email addressed to: Dear First Name. #fail
— Winsor Dobbin (@winsordobbin) May 7, 2016
A classic PR 101 mistake. No reporter is going to feel special when you make this error.
the warm hug of a PR email beginning “dear media”
— brad esposito (@braddybb) March 25, 2016
Then there’s this. No matter how long you’ve been doing PR, there will be clients who will ask this question. The answer is always going to be no, so please don’t ask:
Dear PR people, school your contacts that NO, you don’t get to review my article before publication, esp. when I’m not quoting. #offensive
— Kurt Marko (@krmarko) May 10, 2016
When it comes to reaching out, what’s the best way to contact journalists?
Advice for any PR person considering calling me to let me know they’re about to email me: don’t.
— Denham Sadler (@denhamsadler) May 6, 2016
Then there are reporters who believe you should never call them, for any reason:
dear pr people, PLEASE LITERALLY NEVER CALL ME ON THE PHONE THAT IS WHAT THE INTERNET IS FOR xoxo julia
— Julia Reinstein (@juliareinstein) May 11, 2016
There’s also a lot of debate as to whether pitching via social media works. Here’s a tactic that obviously failed:
As we’re talking about social media, yes, you can use it to get know a bit more about journalists, but there is a line you shouldn’t cross:
Dear PR people, mentioning details about my personal life will not win you points, just creeps me out.
— Joanna Borns (@robotics) April 13, 2016
For those wondering whether they should attach anything to an email pitch, here’s some advice:
Dear PR industry, Attaching a release as a pdf, rather than a doc or in the body of the email, makes me 63.4% less likely to use it
— James Andrews (@FinanceJames) April 18, 2016
It’s usually best to cut and paste the information into the body of the email.
Another tactic some still use in media pitching is an embargo: Reporters are pitched in advance of an announcement but asked to hold the information until a particular date and time. Some in PR wonder whether embargoes work; here’s one reporter’s take:
dear pr people, describing a press released as “embargoed” does not make me care about it more
— Standard Definition (@briandroitcour) February 15, 2016
Now let’s talk about how to get a reporter’s attention. They receive so many email pitches—what’s the best way to make sure your pitch stands out?
Pro tip for pr: If I can’t determine why your pitch is relevant to me from subject line or first two sentences of your email, you’ve failed.
— Kim Zetter (@KimZetter) April 6, 2016
dear pr: do not EVER send me an email with a subject line of “hi.” just “hi.” nothing else. it’s weird. don’t do it.
— Tess Townsend (@Tess_Townsend) March 30, 2016
Of course, we all know a well-written pitch matters. How about proofing your pitch? Is that important?
— Roxana Deaconescu (@roxidh) March 25, 2016
If you are cutting and pasting your pitches, use care:
Dear PR person who referred to me as editor at Nation, Salon, Atlantic & Huffpo IN ONE EMAIL: your cut-and-paste game needs work, son
— Richard Kim (@RichardKimNYC) April 5, 2016
Finally, it’s always good to make sure you’ll be available if you’re the contact on an announcement:
What kind of psuedo-professional puts their name as the contact for a press release, and then goes on leave two days later? #prfail
— Christian Roselund (@croselund) March 2, 2016
That’s a sampling of what you’ll see on @SmugJourno. If you need some media pitching lessons—or just a laugh—it’s a good place to turn.
Michelle Messenger Garrett is a public relations consultant, speaker and award-winning writer with more than 20 years of agency, corporate, startup and Silicon Valley experience. A version of this article first appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.