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 experienced 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 to 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 team 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 to is aligned with your business’s press strategy and is a good fit for your story.
The mistake: The pitch is too generic or sales-y
The fix: Develop a newsworthy press strategy
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? Read the publications you want to reach! This will give your team a good idea of what the outlet covers.
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. This shows the journalists that they’ve done their research and took time to make the message personal.
The mistake: Your team is only sending press releases
The fix: Add a targeted, personalized greeting
While a press release may cover all 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 just 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. 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
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 or 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 they should 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:
- Promise something: While readers and fans will be drawn in by a creative headline, a journalist is looking for a bit more. 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.”
- Give them exclusive information: Journalists want to be the first ones to cover a story, not recycle 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.
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
How aggressively are you expecting your PR team to follow up with their media contacts? You want them to 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!