As a PR pro, you’ll find that one of the most important aspects of your job is maintaining a good relationship with the media. Throughout your career you’ll meet new people, add to your list of contacts, and develop new ways to pitch your stories.
As you progress, you’ll learn which tactics work and which don’t. To make life a little easier, here are some things not to do when pitching journalists.
1. Be a salesperson. Don’t you just love getting unsolicited calls at odd hours from people trying to sell you something you don’t need? Neither does anybody else. Most people prefer to be pitched via email. If they’re interested in a phone call, they’ll usually mention that either online or in reply to your message. If you absolutely must call unannounced—because the Internet collapsed and you have super urgent news—ask if they have time to speak now, or schedule an appointment later. Don’t go off on your spiel until you’re sure they have time to listen.
2. Email. Again. And again, in case they missed the first two. Yes, emails are typically preferred over phone calls. That doesn’t give you permission to spam this poor journalist’s already crowded inbox. You think your news is important. So does every other person emailing this journalist on a daily basis. If your news is something they’re interested in, they’ll let you know. If not, your constant string of emails won’t convince them otherwise. It’ll just get you to the trash bin faster than you can say, “This is a revolutionary new product.”
3. Use tons of jargon. Speaking of revolutionary new products, don’t ever utter that phrase. Unless your product is truly something that was inconceivable last week (yes, the iPhone is our exception here), don’t fall into the “revolutionary” habit. You’re not fooling anyone; instead, you’re hiding your product behind a wall of fluffy nonsense. Get to the point.
4. Use the same exact pitch for everyone. Say you invented a new light bulb that’s 10 times brighter than anything on the market while using half the energy. You want to pitch this bright idea to an environmental magazine and a utility publication. This bulb is certainly relevant to both publications, but for different reasons. Find the appropriate angle for each one, and tailor a separate pitch that will get each person’s attention. For the environmental magazine, focus on energy. For the utility pub, focus on lumens. (By the way, such a bulb might make an acceptable case for being revolutionary.)
5. Don’t bother researching. You have a list of journalists, so now you can send your press release to all the people on that list, right? No. Just as you can’t use the same pitch for everyone, you can’t send everyone all of your press releases either. Look around and find out what industries each reporter covers. If you want the Huffington Post to carry your light bulb story, don’t pitch it to the parenting blogger at the paper. Just because he or she works there, doesn’t mean he or she is the correct person to pitch to. Also, don’t ask them who to send it to; take some initiative and look it up yourself.
As you learn the ins and outs of PR, you’ll undoubtedly have more “don’ts” to add to this list. Experienced pros, what other tips do you have to offer? Journalists, what are some other offenses committed against you by PR practitioners?
Rebecca Benison is a media relations professional at PR.com, a leader in press release distribution. Follow PR.com: @PRcom.