Even when I was a journalist, I’ve always believed there’s a yin-yang relationship between “press” and PR,, at least when it’s done right. The PR people get news placed to reach an intended audience, and for the reporter, the right news helps him or her draw in an audience. Win-win, right?
However, pitching news is hard. There’s a delicate balance between making sure that anyone ever even SEES your pitch, and being annoying. And in finding the exact right words that will help a specific reporter see that he or she wants to share your news with an audience? That’s art.
In a perfect world, PR people would only ever reach out to people who immediately respond and want to hear more. But this is not that world.
I recently had my first go at a pitch and it went… okay. (I may have posted to social media that you should not do PR if you cannot handle “ghosting…”) But we believe our clients deserve better than okay, so here are some suggestions of things we did to make our pitch better, even once the first draft was out.
Be concise: Make it clear up front what the news is (at least in general), what you can offer to build the story, and why you think the audience would care. Never ever forget that part.
Ask: Unless the pitch is going to someone with whom I have a long term relationship and I KNOW he or she will want to cover the news, I always include a line offering to not send future pitches on that area of news again, or to be more targeted if it’s not in a coverage area. Feedback can help you see if there are things you need to clarify, or even just help you…
Know your list: It is a best practice before the pitches go out to read at least one or two recent articles to see if the pitch makes sense. If you think you’ve got the right pub, make sure you look at a few reporters to see who is covering your area. Even better, if you are building relationships, you can include the topic as something that makes sense, not just transactional spam. Then, even if you aren’t talking to the right person for a specific piece of news, there’s a better chance that person will pass it to the correct colleague… meaning it’s more likely that the mail will be read. However, while you’re waiting, read again. See if there’s something else that person is doing TODAY that ties in. Then you can be ready to…
Send again, and maybe a little more: Don’t assume that someone has seen your mail. No matter what time of day or day of the week you send a pitch, if the person getting the mail is on deadline and drowning in pitches (assume that the reporter is ALWAYS on deadline and drowning in pitches), it just might not be seen. Don’t turn into a spammer, but a line of polite follow up, especially if there’s a SMALL additional nugget you can add, might be the difference in someone seeing your news in a timely manner.
Call: There are a lot of people who don’t even list phone numbers, they do not want to get any cold calls. But on behalf of our clients, we have to do everything that we can to make sure we’re putting in the best effort. If you know that a target hates calls, don’t do it. But if the target has made a phone number available, it is worth a try. Just be brief, make sure he or she knows how to contact you, and ideally, let the person know how to respond via mail as well.
The bottom line is, make sure you’re doing what’s right for your clients AND for the people who can help you. That includes follow up, but only if it’s targeted and respectful. Then you can get to that win for everyone.