In this post, I will be looking at the most common PR mistakes when pitching to the media, and offering some advice on what can be done to help improve PR outreach.
Like in any industry, there are some taboos and unwritten rules that need to be adhered to. For PR professionals, these are vital to help maintain great relationships with the media. Without the media, PR professionals will find it hard to building brand awareness, or to make sure customers receive key messages.
Here’s my run down of the top PR mistakes when trying to get positive coverage for clients. It’s important for all PRs to avoid these mistakes, which are more common than you think.
A Long and Wordy Pitch
Emailing your press release to journalists is the most common practice when trying to gain media visibility. But, if an email pitch is too long or too wordy, then the journalist will instantly dismiss it, even if it’s the best news ever. There’s a right way to do a pitch, but there are lots of wrong ways to do one.
Being Overly Promotional
The last thing a journalist wants is to be pitched heavily promotional copy. PRs should endeavour to never make a pitch that is too self-serving. It needs to add value to the media’s audience.
Presenting a Non-Story
I always ask myself ‘so what’ after every idea generated. There needs to be a hook to stand out from all the other pitches a journalist gets daily. Your copy needs to be timely, fresh and relevant to a wide audience. Ask yourself: How will this benefit my audience?
Not Doing the Research
If a PR is writing about a specific trade story, an understanding of the sector is essential. A journalist will know if a PR is blagging it, losing credibility before you’ve even started.
Basic Writing Errors
Basic spelling and grammatical errors in your copy and you will lose the journalist. Last thing a journalist wants to is to spell check a press release. It is a PR’s job to make life as easy as possible for journalists.
Using Too Much Jargon
While having an understanding of the sector you’re working in, and knowing the media may understand the specific of your technical release, using too much jargon that the audience may not understand will not help you to gain coverage. When preparing communications material, make sure it’s written in plain English. Clarity is vital.
Too Many Adjectives
Not every client is ‘leading’ or the ‘largest’, like not every product is ‘innovative’ or ‘state- of-the-art’.
Writing a Boring Headline or Title
The title is the first thing a journalist will see, and your number one aim is to catch their attention. Your title is just as important and relevant as the content itself.
Getting the Timing Wrong – Both Prepping and Pitching
Lead times are super important, so do not try and gain visibility on a whim. Proper planning and research is vital. It’s worth checking your calendar before you hit send. Journalists have deadlines, just like PRs do.
Avoid repeating yourself. Get their name right, is it ‘Carly, Carlee, Carleigh, or Carley’. Journalists are not your best friends, so unless you know them, try and avoid using phrases like “Trust you had a nice weekend” or “Hope you’re well”.
Fortunately, it is quite easy to avoid these errors. Just take the time before you click send to go over everything again. If it’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing right.
Clever people learn from their mistakes, and even cleverer people learn from others mistakes.
I find that working in PR, you need to be a sponge. Take everything in and aspire to constantly learn – that way we can stay on top of our industry and our clients’ industries. It’s important to never stop being curious. Attention to detail is vital, I once almost clicked send on an email that said:
And please do not miss the ‘r’ out of ‘shirt’. Proof read everything.
As touched upon earlier, nothing hurts the credibility of a pitch or a proposal like silly mistakes. When selling in to a particular journalist, do your homework. What’s stopping you looking at their past stories and fine-tuning a pitch to appeal to their audience?
Don’t start your PR activities too late. If you want people to take notice of a particular event, project or campaign, you need to start your PR activities well in advance.
Finally, my number one tip is to learn from your mistakes, or other people’s mistakes!