Staying on the Right Side of the Media Relations Curve


May 2010

Public relations professionals know that the success of their company, client, or brand initiatives begin with good media relations. And as the media world continues to evolve, so do the best practices associated with contacting the media and disseminating news releases and other information. Yet, according to some journalists and bloggers, there are PR practitioners who "still don't get even the basics" — turning what could potentially be a good pitch into a media relations blunder.

5 Things to Avoid When Pitching the Media

Increased time demands and constant "news" inundation mean that PR practitioners must pay special attention when pitching the media. Even well-intentioned PR and marketing pros can "cross the line" by committing just one of these all-too-common mistakes.

  1. Not knowing your audience. There is really no excuse for not properly identifying your audience. If you can't adequately define who you're trying to reach, and why you're trying to reach them, what's the point of pitching? You should ask yourself the same question if you don't know a journalist's or blogger's preferred method of receiving communications or their area of interest. So, do your research to ensure you are on target with your message and approach. Cutting corners here is short-sighted and will turn out to be a time-waster for you and a no-starter for pickup of the pitch.
  2. Not identifying your affiliation and organization. Transparency is crucial in today's media relations, where contacts want to be assured that the story is being pitched by a legitimate source and not by a spammer. As Dave Fleet succinctly states in a blog post entitled, Anatomy of a Bad Pitch,"Trolls send anonymous messages. Good PR people don't."
  3. Attaching large files. With the advent of digital technology, you can never be certain where a journalist or blogger is accessing their email. Downloading large amounts of data can be irksome, especially if — as often happens now — the recipient is using a mobile device. Sally Whittle cautions on her Getting Ink blog, "If you're using WiFi on a public hotspot or you're using a 3G dongle or BlackBerry, downloading huge chunks of data is not fun. HUGE waste of time. Don't do it." Instead, PR pros should look to incorporate links to other relevant channels. Your online press center, for example, is a good place to direct your contacts as they will be able to see not just the info for the present pitch, but also about other initiatives or past news coverage that may be more aligned with their objectives and/or additional info for development of the current pitch.
  4. Using "unclean" data. It's no secret that PR professionals routinely acquire contact information for their audiences, including journalists and bloggers, from a variety of sources such as in-house lists and list-building services like BurrellesLuce Media Contact. Regardless of how reliable your data is, you'll always want to check the final distribution file for accuracy including duplicates (which can easily populate if you've used more than one source of information), among other things, before sending a mass email. If you don't take this precaution, and recipients are hit with several identical messages, you risk being seen as a spammer. Indeed, you can forgo the generic email pitch altogether, and instead create something more personal, addressed to each contact.
  5. Ignoring contacts' time demands. Everyone is pressed for time these days. So if you miss a deadline, particularly for a piece you've pitched to a journalist or blogger, it can damage your credibility. At best, a late product suggests that your story idea wasn't worth all that much. At worst, it can be viewed as a lack of respect, which would deter the affected media person from working with you again.

Whether you're a novice, when it comes to media relations, or you've been in the field a while it's always a good idea to refresh yourself on media pitching best practices. Trends may come and go, but the basics are timeless. When in doubt, use common sense. And remember, the three Rs: research, relevance, and respect.

Case Study: How Not to Pitch the Media

It's clear that while the ability to successfully connect with journalists and bloggers is touted as a basic skill for any PR professionals — it's also one the weakest in terms of execution. Just take a look at the Bad Pitch blog which highlights and dissects some of the worst pitches. Some examples:

Although the reasons why each of these and other companies or brands were listed as having a bad pitch differ, it's almost certain that this type of "feature" was not the goal they had in mind.

About BurrellesLuce

BurrellesLuce is the U.S. leader in media monitoring. Professionals in a wide range of industries rely on our comprehensive curated content from local and national print, online, broadcast, and social media sources. BurrellesLuce has a turnkey copyright compliance program that allows us to provide copyright-compliant, behind-the-paywall content not available to other services. BurrellesLuce combines grade-A content with easy-to-use software, allowing users to evaluate and analyze their media coverage and PR efforts. It's all integrated into our user-friendly interface, BurrellesLuce WorkFlow™.

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