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Don’t Let the Pitch Be the Problem

If you’re in the public relations industry, chances are you’ve had your story idea rejected by a reporter or even had a journalist hang up the phone on you. It happens and it’s not the end of the world – what’s important is to take note of what you can do next time to make your pitch more successful. For example, did you pitch a reporter who doesn’t cover that beat or did you come across as too self-serving? These are questions to consider.

In the recent HubSpot blog post titled, “S%*t PR People Do That Journalists Hate,” reporters from various media outlets shared what makes them want to scream, cry or completely ignore PR pitches. The key takeaways from this post were to remember to: “Go beyond Google, put down the phone, don’t act desperate and be prepared.” To expand on this subject, I asked a couple of my Nuffer, Smith, Tucker team members a few tricks and tips they use when outreaching to media. Here’s what they had to say:

Know their timeline

  • Katie Rowland – “Understand a journalist’s schedule and don’t call or pitch a story at times you know he or she will be busy.”
  • Natalie Haack – “Find out the best time to pitch morning show producers. Before and during the show they can be busy and some have post-show meetings. Try different times or ask them when to call so you are sure to catch them at a time that is convenient for them to talk!”

Know their work

  • Krystin Williamson – “Always do your homework before reaching out to a contact. What beat do they cover, what perspective do they bring to that beat, what have they covered lately? Do your due diligence so that you can tailor your written pitch and verbal conversation appropriately. This extra effort will show you respect the journalist and hopefully help to build a relationship with them starting from a point of mutual respect, which can then grow over time.”
  • Derek Danziger – “Make sure you know the beat of the reporter you’re pitching, as well as what type of stories they are covering. I typically follow reporters on Twitter to see what they’re talking about. From there, you can be more strategic with how you can pitch them.”

Know what they want

  • Greg Kershaw – “Be buttoned up and prepared. If you have a few minutes, spend a few of them thinking about visuals that may work, getting the potential availability of executives, visualizing how you’d want the headline to read, etc. That way, when you begin conversations with the reporter, you can speak with more authority, be more helpful and minimize the amount of back-and-forth.”

In addition to our team’s tips and tricks, I had the opportunity to touch base with a few reporters who confessed their pitching pet peeves and how PR pros can build strong relationships with the media.

Reporter Tierney Plumb from The Daily Transcript shared she’d like to see PR pros:

  • “Write clean and concise emails. In a few sentences, summarize the story and note why it’s newsworthy, attach the press release and send. If you leave a voicemail, give the same short introduction over the phone.”
  • “Don’t use CAPS LOCK or exclamation points! It’s jarring, unnecessary and makes the pitch sound cheap.”

KCOY 12 Reporter Rachael Laine would like PR pros to:

  • “Get to know the media contacts on a personal level. For example, grab lunch with a reporter if you’re going to work with them a lot, it can help build a great trusting relationship.”
  • “Please be on time when you’re meeting for an interview and make sure the answers are straight forward. Be prepared to talk about what’s happening now and don’t promote events happening in two or more months from the time of interview.”
  • “Stick with the facts and make the pitch short and sweet. Deadline is everything. That’s all journalists think about. If the pitch is too wordy or lengthy, we won’t be interested.”
  • “Make sure you know the name of the person who you’re pitching, take the time to personalize the pitch, and make sure you spell the person’s name correctly. I get dozens of emails a day that say, ‘Dear Friend,’ or someone else’s name, which makes me want to hit the delete button.”

Orange County Register Columnist Frank Mickadeit recommends PR pros to:

  • “Know the publication’s audience and the areas reporters cover. Don’t send pitches regarding events, books, inventions, etc. to us if the people or companies have absolutely no connection to our circulation area.”

Here at NST, we make an effort to constantly keep tabs on the ever-evolving world of journalism. We hold ourselves responsible to confirm that we’ve done our due diligence before reaching out to reporters. Additionally, our team participates in Brown Bag lunches, where we invite local reporters, editors and producers to share insights on the journalism industry in a friendly environment, without any client pitching.

Are you a reporter or a PR pro? What are some tips and tricks you recommend PR pros to remember when pitching?

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