You know public relations (PR) is essential to boosting your credibility, expanding your audience and growing your business. However, you may not know that the art of pitching is an essential PR skill. Great pitch skills allow you to bypass the media release process, secure more press and put your PR campaign into overdrive.
Pitching the media isn’t an exact science, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the process. In fact, the strength of your pitch depends on how personalized it is to a targeted media contact. The more often you pitch, the easier and smoother the process becomes.
As you start to engage in PR and pitch the media, here are four common mistakes you can easily avoid with the right preparation:
Mistake #1: Including email attachments
Sure, you’re excited about sending all the information you can regarding your new launch, but hold up. All you need to send when you pitch the media is your pitch email and maybe your press release copy/pasted below your signature file for added context.
If you want to share an electronic press kit, images or larger files, then link to Google Drive, Box or Dropbox with the relevant images and content. Attach nothing. Emails too large in size will choke up your contact’s inbox or be flagged as spam—rarely will attachments make it to an editor’s inbox. Either link to the supporting material or offer to send it upon request.
Mistake #2: Pitching the wrong person
This is a big no-no and also something that may end up happening when you’re first starting out. Often, when pitching similar outlets, you’ll simply change the name, intro and close on your pitch and hit send. It becomes too easy to make the mistake of using the wrong name. Remember to take your time, do not rush, and proofread at least twice before sending—pay extra attention to the names!
“Remember to take your time, do not rush, and proofread at least twice before sending—pay extra attention to the names!”
Furthermore, research and be familiar with the topics your media contact covers. One of the most common gripes among journalists and reporters is when they are pitched stories that are not relevant to their beat.
Conduct informal research and jot down a couple of relevant article titles, and double check. Journalists are the most valuable resource in PR, and spending a little extra time getting to know them and their work will pay off (and keep you on their good side).
Mistake #3: Boring email subject lines
Some PR professionals may argue that your email subject line is more important than the pitch itself. It’s what editors and journalists see first and determines whether they open your pitch email. So, rather than writing something simple like ‘inquiry’ or ‘story you will love’ or ‘press release,’ prepare to get creative.
Pull the most exciting thing—your ‘hook’— out of your pitch and use that as your subject line. Also, be sure the subject line is short, sweet, and catchy—a good test is to think of whether it would read well as a social post. If it’s catchy enough for a Facebook post and would get your audience interested enough to learn more, then you’re getting closer to a great headline that will hook your media contact. Read your subject line a couple of times, and if you don’t find it exciting, chances are editors and journalists won’t either.
Mistake #4: Off-season pitching
Some products and services aren’t always relevant. Also, some news isn’t always exciting, but there’s usually a time and place for every announcement, launch, or news story. So, consider when your product or service will be at peak relevance and time your pitches accordingly.
Is it seasonal? Is it is closely linked to a holiday or event? Is it relevant to a current trending subject? Timing in PR is essential, so consider each of these factors and plan your pitches for when they’ll have maximum impact.
What to do when you’re PR efforts fall flat
If you’re having trouble getting results from your PR pitches or need to re-think your pitch strategy, sit down and review what you’ve done up to this point. Look at the areas where you can improve your pitches based on the four common mistakes above.
Sometimes we’re too close to our stories to determine whether our pitch process and story angles are engaging and newsworthy. Ask colleagues, family and/or friends to proofread your work. Make sure they understand your story angle before you hit send. That will help ensure the story you’re pitching is resonating with others and increases your chances of garnering interest from the media.
Remember to take your time when you develop your pitch and when you start contacting the media with your story. Think quality, not quantity—before you know it, you’ll start winning that earned media coverage.
Krista Bordner serves as President of Handle Your PR (HYPR) where she helps small business owners, entrepreneurs and startups leverage PR to boost their credibility, expand their audience and grow their business. As a PR and communication evangelist for nearly 15 years, Krista is on a mission to make PR accessible to all, regardless of a limited skill set or budget constraints. She works with businesses across several industries, including travel, tech, fashion, beauty, and more.