When pitching your story or idea to the media, you want to present yourself and your business in the best light possible. Unfortunately, many companies make common mistakes that immediately put their emails in the trash. Here are the top 10 PR mistakes you can easily avoid and increase your chances of landing a media feature.
1. Get the Reporter’s Name and Beat Right
One of the most common PR mistakes businesses make is copying and pasting their pitches. There’s a reason why each of your pitches should be customized for each reporter and publication you are pitching. Not taking the time to individualize each pitch always results in calling a reporter by the wrong name or sending story ideas to someone who doesn’t cover that beat.
2. Don’t Capitalize Off on a Crisis
The goal of your media hits should be to obtain positive coverage for your business. This means you should NEVER capitalize on a crisis to get your name in front of reporters. Not only is it bad taste, but reporters may turn the tables on you and exploit your insensitivity to the situation.
3. Don’t Ask to Edit the Story Before It’s Live
The biggest part of PR is building relationships. Part of that relationship means building trust on both sides. You are trusting the writer to paint your business in a positive way while the reporter is trusting that you provided the most accurate information.
4. Avoid “Just Following Up”
If you haven’t heard back from a writer or publication, don’t just shoot off an empty email saying “Just following up!” If the writer has not already reached out to you, they are likely not interested in your story. You can pique their interest again in your follow-up by adding new information to make the story better. It’s important that all your communication with journalists offers them value.
5. Never Attack the Competition
We’ve all seen it before. One big company drags another through the mud just to prove they are the best in the industry. Journalists may look negatively on this tactic and are unlikely to run your story. In worst-case scenarios, journalists could even ask the competition to respond to your comments. This is the kind of press you want to avoid. Instead of focusing on your competition, focus on the key differentiations.
6. Don’t Use Off the Record or No Comment Statements
“Off the record” and “no comment” statements can destroy your story before it’s even gotten off the ground. When you’re being interviewed, you should assume that everything is on the record. Be strategic about the information you divulge during these discussions. Second, “no comment” statements can imply omission or guilt and could damage your image. If you don’t know the answer to a question being asked, let the writer know you can get back to them with that answer. If you’re being asked to divulge information that you’re legally or ethically bound to keep confidential, let the interviewer know that, rather than saying “no comment.”
7. Know What’s News
As the flood of hundreds of pitches come through reporters’ emails, it’s crucial that your media pitch is actually newsworthy – put simply, will your story affect a substantial number of people? If it objectively won’t, it will be lost in the masses. In your pitch, be sure to include a tie-in to larger trends, data, quotes and traction. Journalists want clickable stories and general evergreen features won’t likely make the cut.
8. Don’t Pitch Reporters at the Same Publication
Although knowing the beat and a reporter’s name is important, it’s also important to know who the other writers are at the publication. There are likely multiple writers covering the same or similar topics. If you decide to send a media pitch to both of those journalists, acknowledge this in your email. These writers will talk and identical pitches sent to staff members will feel impersonal.
9. Avoid Buzzwords
Every writer wants a catchy headline. However, buzz words like “state-of-the-art” or “world’s leading” are extremely overplayed and generally inaccurate. Use clear and concise words instead. Always provide writers with the data and facts to back up your claims. This will give them the tools to write a strong story.
10. Don’t Use the Wrong Channel to Pitch
It’s important to know where a reporter is most active. This is all part of understanding who their audience is and how you can provide them value with your story. Although most reporters are active on Twitter, be sure to check all of their channels and review their bios. Most journalists will spell out the best way to send them a story idea. This could be via email, DM, or through their publication’s website.
Many pieces go into achieving a great media feature. These common PR mistakes can ruin your marketing campaign before it even has the chance to gain traction. It’s important to create a PR strategy that addresses your biggest goal and takes into account the best practices for pitching media.
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