It doesn’t matter if you are a 20-year veteran with a long history of PR success or a new pro just getting started. When the door is slammed in your face, it can feel like an affront.
A common step along the five stages of grief when mourning your PR pitch’s demise is often to seek feedback. You want to know why your pitch fell short—maybe even hope to be told that you checked all the boxes and, simply, a horrible mistake was made. The New York Times would love to run your story ASAP.
We all get delusions of grandeur, but as Occam’s Razor tells us, the simplest answer is often the correct answer. The PR version suggests: Your pitch was flawed.
Here are five of the most common reasons we reject pitches at PR Daily—and the associated pitch behavior that might be holding you back across the board.
1. Your pitch or story is poorly written.
If an editor can’t understand your pitch or find the thesis of your story, it’s going in the trash. If you are lucky, you might get a reply saying they’ll pass. If you follow up asking for writing advice, you might get blocked.
Editors are busy—and rewriting or rehashing your poorly constructed ideas is a huge time drain, to say nothing of the time it would take to email writing tips to improve your article.
Sometimes your news or analysis is valuable enough for an editor to work with you on making it better so it can be published. When that happens, work quickly to make (or accept) changes, and don’t fight an editor who is taking time to help you out. Remember: The goal is to get your news in front of a wide audience. Save your unique voice for your creative writing class.
2. You’re selling yourself.
Some publications might agree to add your links, post your press release or publish your article for a fee. Though these tactics are nothing new, they are undermining the public trust in media outlets and journalism at large—and some reporters will be insulted by the request.
Your pitch has to offer value to readers, and that value had better be more than information about your product, services or your slick new CEO. Instead, talk about the problems your business is trying to solve. Talk about the forces reshaping your industry. Talk about anything but yourself—and don’t think by inserting yourself as a solution to an important problem is a workaround. Good editors will see right through this trick and will bounce your pitch on sight.
3. You didn’t tailor your pitch.
My colleague Beki Winchel puts it best:
Especially in today’s digital media landscape, there are a plethora of online publications, blogs and websites that cater to all kinds of interests.[…] Sending an irrelevant pitch, at best, tells the reporter or editor that you didn’t conduct any research. At worst, it sends the message that you don’t value the recipient’s time. Neither makes a good impression.
You have to know your audience. This includes knowing to whom you are sending your PR pitch. PR Daily doesn’t care about how many refrigerators will be sold worldwide by 2020. The Wall Street Journal probably won’t publish this rant on untoward pitch behavior.
4. You were rude.
This one is surprising. However, many media pros report receiving rude or overly aggressive messages from PR pros.
Sammy Nickalls, the departments editor of AdWeek, said why he rejects pitches:
I’d say the No. 2 reason—and this is honestly depressing to me—is straight-up rudeness. Just the other day, a PR rep texted me on my personal cell past five on my vacation day about a pitch that I hadn’t even accepted. I hadn’t even given her my phone number! I’ve also received phone calls at 7 a.m. on the weekend, extremely rude and passive-aggressive follow-ups, and other nasty pitching methods that make me instantly reject the pitch. It’s a great way to ensure an editor will never work with you again.
When you decide not to take “no” for an answer, you are ostensibly telling a reporter or editor that you don’t think they know how to do their job. Reporters often make hard decisions about coverage and what stories to pursue. Don’t prompt them to write you off as a nuisance.
5. You didn’t show your work to someone else.
It’s an essential step for understanding where your pitch went wrong. PR pros can get too close to their subject and lose sight of what makes their story a winner. If you are getting turned down, ask a colleague to read your pitch and give you their thoughts.
Chances are you will learn something about your pitch or your subject, and a little tweaking might yield greater success down the road.