Press Strategy: 10 Media Pitching Mistakes and Their Simple Fixes

Press Strategy: 10 Media Pitching Mistakes and Their Simple Fixes

What makes your press strategy successful? Landing high-quality media coverage through media pitches requires a lot of research, carefully crafted messages and well-timed follow up. If you haven’t been seeing success, there may be some easy fixes! Make sure your public relations team isn’t guilty of committing one of these common media pitching mistakes.

10 Common Press Strategy Mistakes Your PR Team Might Be Making

The Mistake: Not Pitching the Right Person
The Fix: Research the Publication to Find the Best Fit

If your media pitches are landing in the spam folder, your PR team may not be contacting the right person at the media outlet. Ask your firm if they subscribe to a robust media contact database, such as Cision, to ensure they’re able to reach hundreds of thousands of journalists across the country.

In addition to subscribing to the database, they need to know how to use it correctly; running a search isn’t enough. It’s imperative they edit the list carefully and thoroughly to make sure each contact they pitch is aligned with your business’ press strategy and a good fit for your pitch angles.

The Mistake: The Pitch is Too Generic or Sales-y
The Fix: Develop a Newsworthy Press Strategy

Electronic internet web and paper media concept  tablet pc computer, modern black glossy touchscreen smartphone and heap of business office newspapers with financial news isolated on white background with reflection effect
Does your press strategy include pitches that are newsworthy?

Media pitches are designed to provide journalists with a story idea their readers, viewers or listeners would be interested in; if the pitch is generic or sales-y it will just be deleted. Instead, make sure your team’s pitch angles are based on a compelling story, not a product or promotion.

How can your PR team get a sense for what a newsworthy story looks like? They need to read the publications you want to reach! This will give them a good idea of what they cover.

The Mistake: The Pitch Isn’t Personalized
The Fix: Double, Triple, Quadruple Check Names and Spellings

How would you feel if you opened an email and your name was spelled incorrectly? What if it was addressed to someone else or began with a generic, “Dear Sir or Madam”? You’d probably delete it.

A quality media relations team avoids this by personalizing their pitches; they lead with the reporter’s name (spelled correctly!) and do not address the pitch to a generic news desk to show the journalists they’ve been researching them and took time to make the message personal.

The Mistake: Your Team Is Just Sending Press Releases
The Fix: Add a Targeted, Personalized Greeting

While a press release may cover all of the necessary information you are trying to convey about your business or product, it’s not the same as a media pitch, and relying too heavily on it isn’t an effective press strategy.

If you really want to send a press release, have your PR team pair it with a quick email introduction highlighting main bullet points from the release. The reporter will appreciate the context that simplifies the story and specifically relates it to their audience.

The Mistake: The Pitch is Too Long
The Fix: Keep it Short and Sweet

Long winded explanations of your company’s history or product specs won’t receive a response from a journalist. Your PR team’s media pitches need to be short and sweet, including only relevant information. While it may take many paragraphs or pages to tell your full story, remember writing a pitch is about spelling out the basics and teasing the journalist about the newsworthy qualities of your brand.

An effective public relations team knows that it’s best to leave out most of the information in favor of a few key details. Instead, they’ll include a link to an online press kit and/or landing page as part of your press strategy and share it in their media pitches; if the reporter wants the full story, they will click on the link(s) that are included and/or reply to the pitch with any questions they may have.

The Mistake: Your Team Hasn’t Done Their Research
The Fix: Read the Reporter’s Last Five Articles

dog reading newspaper and relaxing on grass in the park
Make sure your press strategy includes reading journalists’ previous articles.

It may be a no-brainer for your team to read the work of the journalist they plan to pitch, but many PR professionals miss this step. When targeting specific publications, your media relations team should take the extra time to look at the writer’s last five or so articles to get a feel for their audience and niche. They’ll also pay attention to the dates of these stories so they don’t pitch a blogger who hasn’t written anything for a few months (or years)!

The Mistake: Not Offering Anything of Value
The Fix: Share What’s In It for Them

Do you have a revolutionary new product that can transform the life of its users? Your PR team should use the pitches they craft to convey why your business/product is amazing! Depending on your product or service, they may create a video, press kit or share images of the product in use to engage the press and let them know why it’s important that they share it with their readers or viewers.

It’s important to know that when writing a media pitch, your public relations team isn’t going to make it read like an ad for your business. Instead of touting all of your company’s recent accomplishments and introducing its great new product offerings, your press strategy will be about the journalist and their readers, viewers or listeners. An effective pitch will clearly explain why your story will benefit their audience.

The Mistake: The Subject Line is Boring or Off-Topic
The Fix: Follow This Three-Step Formula

Most media pitches lacking strong subject lines are deleted and never read, which is why it’s important for your PR team to understand the importance of this element. Creating a subject line to use for pitching the media is similar to writing a headline for an article. Here are three ways your public relations team can craft a compelling one:

  1. Promise Something: While readers and fans will be drawn in from a creative headline, a journalist is looking for a bit more. Searching for a story their readers or viewers will love, they are looking for the newest news and the hottest trends. The subject line should draw the reader in and promise a story their audience would be interested in like, “This new sushi trend has taken Seattle by storm.”
  2. Give Them Exclusive Information: Journalists want to be the first ones to cover a story, not recycling news that’s already happened. An essential part of pitching to the media is giving them a fresh story. A subject line that begins with “Exclusive” or offers an interview with an expert often helps.
  3. Start with a Question: Does your pitch angle contain research or access to an industry leader who holds the answers to common questions? The subject line is a fantastic place to include these details! By asking a question you know customers want to know the answer to, it shows the journalist you are the best person to answer it.

The Mistake: Not Properly Following Up
The Fix: Practice Pleasant Persistence

Smiling businessman sending a text message with laptop beside at the cafe
Follow up is an important element to a successful press strategy.

How aggressively are you expecting your PR team to follow up with their media contacts? You want to them find the balance between a friendly reminder and annoyingly spamming. We like to call this, “Pleasant Persistence.”

In addition to timely follow up, an effective press strategy includes presenting additional ideas when you touch base. Make sure your media relations team is giving the reporter another few suggestions about stories to tell with your products or services; you never know what might inspire them to publicize you!

The Mistake: The Pitch is Full of Errors
The Fix: Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

It is imperative that any media pitch sent on your company’s behalf is accurate and free from grammar and writing errors. Here are some quick proofreading tips to follow:

  1. Walk away for at least 30 minutes (although overnight is better) and come back to your team’s writing with fresh eyes to review what they wrote. Do all their points make sense? Does the email flow in natural way? Are any words missing or are there typos?
  2. Read it out loud. Reciting the words out loud can help you catch silly typos and hear the overall flow of your PR team’s content.
  3. Print out a hard copy. Looking at the words on a physical page (rather than a computer screen) can help your media relations team notice mistakes. Of course, we always recommend using scrap paper to save the trees!

In addition to looking for typos, anyone that writes a pitch needs to triple check they’re spelling reporter names and media outlet names correctly. If those are wrong, the journalist will assume your team didn’t take the time to do their homework.

Contacting the media and getting your brand placed in a story all begins with a solid press strategy. Do you need help creating one for your business? Contact us today for a free, no obligation 30-minute consultation to find out how we can assist!

In the meantime, here are some other great articles about pitching the media:

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