Seven mistakes PR pros make when pitching media

To many in the PR industry, constructing and distributing a media pitch has become something of a routine. Journalists – like everyone else today – are dealing with information overload. It is because of this development that pitches now carry so much weight in determining whether or not a story gets picked up or a press release is actually read.

Want better results from your media outreach? Check your pitch for these seven common and deadly pitfalls:

1. It lacks a hook
Many great stories have been abandoned to collect dust in the shadowy depths of journalists’ trash folders because they lacked a good hook. Every pitch you send should begin with a power move; something to grab the reporter’s attention and beckon them to dig deeper. Hooks should be interesting facts, statistics or trends related to the story that demonstrate its timeliness, relevance and impact. Why does your story matter today?

2. It’s too long
When pitching media, brevity is your friend. It’s as simple as that. Journalists receive a deluge of pitches each day and lack the time and patience it takes to sift through each 500-word composition to find the news. Four to six sentences will do just fine, and if you can’t tell your story within such constraints, take a trip back to the drawing board to focus the message.

3. It isn’t tailor-made
Each reporter out there is a unique individual. They have their own name, style, interests and tendencies. They should be approached accordingly. If you want a real shot at getting a journalist’s attention, you should never send out a generic message to your entire media list. Make each and every pitch personalized, thoughtful and attractive; a media love letter, if you will. Greet them with their name, reference their past related work and communicate why you’ve handpicked them to tell this particular story. While going this route is far more time consuming than the “one size fits all” pitching approach, your odds of receiving a response will increase tremendously. And keep in mind, there isn’t anything in this world that will earn your pitch a swift click to the delete button more than greeting your reporter with the wrong name.

4. It lacks supporting materials
Anticipate what the journalist is going to need for the story. Stay one step ahead by providing supporting headshots, white papers and links to videos with the original pitch. This will cut down on the amount of follow up requests for additional information and let the reporter know that this isn’t your first rodeo.

5. It’s just an FYI
PR pros have settled into a funny habit of sending reporters press releases as an FYI. While the intent might be simply to keep the lines of communication open with a press contact or a hope that they might forward the story on to an editor, the reality is that anything with FYI in the subject line automatically diminishes its importance and is less likely to result in a follow up. Never press send on a pitch that doesn’t include a call to action. Offer an interview. Tease additional information for later. Do something to give your pitch a fighting chance to hatch into a published story.

6. It’s sent to the wrong journalists
Unfortunately, most pitches don’t even make it to the right contact. Far too often, pitches are sent to pre-assembled media lists filled with local and national journalists (the usual suspects) covering a particular client, industry or topic. While these lists are great as a foundation, every new story presents an opportunity to reach out to new contacts. For each and every pitch, spend the time it takes to research reporters who have covered similar stories and topics. This will expand your media lists and provide opportunities to break into new publications. Well-thought-out media targets will dramatically improve your chances of securing placements.

7. It isn’t followed up with a phone call
Semantics and sentiment can often be lost through the written word. Pick up the phone! If you haven’t received a response to your pitch, dial the reporter and speak to them. You’ll have the opportunity to explain the story and answer questions in real-time, you’ll have a chance to fire off several alternative angles if they decline and you’ll have a better shot at building a relationship for future stories even if they are not interested. Delivering your message verbally is an incredibly effective pitching tool. Use it.