It shouldn’t come as a surprise that thoughtful, well-executed pitches yield the best results for public relations practitioners. Everyone is busy and attention spans are finite, so the chance to reach someone depends on multiple factors, many of which can be out of your control. However, many PR pros continue to slip up with simple mistakes that prevent their pitches from reaching full potential.
Luckily, a new year means new opportunities for success. Here’s 10 ways you can leave pitch mistakes in the past this 2023.
Don’t: Drone on…and on…
Journalists are bombarded with hundreds of pitches every day. If yours reads more like a novel, don’t anticipate a response any time soon.
Do: Get to the damn point — craft a punchy pitch with only the most pertinent details
Don’t: Leave them asking, “You talkin’ to me?”
Few things annoy a journalist more than a cold, cookie-cutter message (yes, potentially even more than tight deadlines or last-minute edits).
Do: Go the extra mile to be personable and genuine
Don’t: Be wishy-washy
Keeping journalists’ chaotic inboxes in mind, clarity is of the utmost importance in pitching. They shouldn’t have to fill in the blanks or be left wondering what they are supposed to do next.
Do: Ensure that your call-to-action stands out, remembering that “clear beats clever”
Don’t: Waste time reaching the wrong audience
Sometimes, PR pros mistakenly reach out to reporters who aren’t the right fit (or, maybe they once were, but have since changed roles — especially given recent layoffs and the rise of freelancing). If you’re guilty of this, rest assured that you’re not the first and won’t be the last.
Do: Double check that contacts are current and relevant
Don’t: Half-ass your research
Journalists are professional researchers (and BS detectors, by effect), so if you didn’t do your homework before crafting your pitch, don’t expect an ideal response.
Do: Put in the time and effort from the beginning, and your results will show it
While you want your pitch to be attention-grabbing, don’t fall victim to crafting copy that resembles clickbait. Exaggerated claims are likely to turn off any journalist worth targeting.
Do: Keep your pitches grounded
Don’t: Get lost in the shuffle
Timing is one of the most crucial, yet tricky elements of pitching. Making sure that your topic is timely (if not evergreen) is only half the battle.
Do: Avoid peak times where inboxes are likely inundated
Don’t: Forget to proofread…and run a spellcheck
When pitching to a professional writer, typos are sure to make them cringe. We even quivered at the thought of a grammatical error just now.
Do: Read your pitch over multiple times (including aloud) and use a tool such as Grammarly to catch any errors
Don’t: Write lame subject lines
Though clickbait tactics are typically frowned upon, your subject line is the one place where being provocative tends to pay off. With hundreds of unread pitches in a reporter’s inbox, use your subject line as a chance to stand out from the crowd.
Do: Walk the line between clickbait and captivating, but also be mindful of certain phrases that might trigger spam filters …
Don’t: Rock the boat
It can be easy to get swept up in the stress of deadlines and expectations, but you should always remember that the person you’re trying to contact is just that — a person. Put yourself in their shoes: would incessant follow-ups or pushy remarks make you more likely to consider a pitch? Chances are, probably not.
Do: Allow reporters reasonable time to respond (and be graceful in your follow-ups)