When automation goes wrong: Lessons from failed pitches

Using templates or tools might let you email more reporters than individual outreach, but the strategy can also backfire, ultimately getting your pitch ignored.

Technology can be helpful—except when it doesn’t work.

Most PR pros with the responsibility of pitching reporters gladly welcome resources that can make their work more efficient and effective, including media lists, pitch templates and automated email tools.

However, these handy resources should also come with a warning. Misuse can erode a potential relationship with reporter, instead of getting your organization’s news covered.

The three pitches below show what results when an automated template doesn’t come off as seamlessly as you might have hoped. (Note: These were sent to PR Daily’s editor, Ted Kitterman. Names have been redacted and the bold typeface in the first pitch is for emphasis.)

Though the first pitch takes too long to get to the point and underlines the importance of brevity, offering a timely seasonal pitch with takeaways for readers isn’t a bad idea:

Springtime often calls for fresh perspectives and revamped surroundings, or as the commonly used phrase goes – spring cleaning. Top digital marketing firm [name redacted] encourages that companies also implement an annual “spring cleaning” to their content and social media strategies – incorporating industry trends and technologies to drive new successes.

It falls flat, however, after the PR pro forgot to customize the template:

I wanted to see if you’d be interested in a story for XX focused on ways a brand can revamp its digital presence for the year ahead – I’d be happy to connect you with [name of firm and individuals redacted] to share their expert insights. Some of their doable tips for brands seeking a springtime makeover include…

via GIPHY

Here’s a press release that was sent without preamble, which is not a recommended pitching technique. PR pros, here’s a tip: Most reporters don’t want to read your press release. Save it for the wire, and instead pitch them a short paragraph or two with all the meat to hook them on your story.

That being said, this press release was thin on information:

HEADLINE GOES HERE

HOUSTON – (XXX XX, 2018) – Text of the release goes here, in the main body. Text of the release goes here, in the main body.Text of the release goes here, in the main body.Text of the release goes here, in the main body.Text of the release goes here, in the main body.Text of the release goes here, in the main body.Text of the release goes here, in the main body.Text of the release goes here, in the main body.Text of the release goes here, in the main body.Text of the release goes here, in the main body.Text of the release goes here, in the main body.Text of the release goes here, in the main body.

via GIPHY

Here’s a PR pro who killed the pitch right from the beginning:

Hi INSERT FIRST NAME HERE,

via GIPHY

You can cut down on automated failures such as these by testing your emails before they go out and asking your co-workers to proofread your copy. Mistakes can still happen, but having a proofreading system in place helps cut down on errors.

You can also eliminate these automation gaffes altogether if you don’t send automated pitches in the first place.

Instead of blasting your press release or pitch to several huge media lists, consider crafting a tailored pitch and then sending it to a select (and small) group of reporters or editors based on a common theme (such as the same beat or similar publications).

If you have a press release, longer story or study, offer to send it separately or add a link below your short and snappy sentences that highlight the enticing elements of your news and what you can offer. Do the same with multiple images or quotations from experts: Share one compelling image and link to additional resources they can use.

Don’t forget to offer your expert’s name, title and organization—along with what insights he or she can give. Then, respond quickly if a reporter is interested.

What stories of automated email failures do you have?

(Image via)

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