‘Bad Pitch Blog’ Co-Founder Kevin Dugan on the Art of Pitching

Today’s guest post comes to you courtesy of our friends at PressDoc, the (social) media-friendly press release distribution, tracking and measurement service. To celebrate the release of PressList, a new service designed to help users pitch stories to journalists, the PressDoc team conducted a series of Q&As with experts in the field.

Their first interview subject is Kevin Dugan, a veteran of both the journalism and PR disciplines. He is the co-author of the Bad Pitch Blog, winner of an Award of Commendation in the Blog category from the Public Relations Society of America and a listed member of the AdAgePower 150“. He tweets under the @prblog handle. 

From your experience, which email pitches do journalists pay attention to, and what makes them read the press release?

Pitching success boils down to relevance. In fact, the list is more important than the pitch. If it’s relevant? It can be long. It can have large attachments. I don’t care because I’m focused on the relevant content and not how it was packaged.

How often is it relevant? Rarely.

Unfortunately, everyone seems to spend hours crafting the pitch and minutes creating the list. It should be the opposite. Online audience identification tools are used for scale instead of for accuracy and insight. And this assumes someone is creating a pitch in the first place. Far too many publicists just send a news release. But the release isn’t the pitch, it supports the pitch. It’s background. When I only get a news release? I know it’s a mass pitch. That makes it 10 times less likely I will read that email.

What’s your advice to people new to pitching on how to effectively pitch journalists?

The more time you spend building the list and using it to inform your pitch, the better. If more time is spent by a person than a machine on the list, it will increase the pitch’s effectiveness. In fact, I am willing to bet that if the entire media relations industry did this, the industry could pitch half as many people and earn more coverage. Currently, I’m convinced there are publicists that do keyword searches on an online media database. And without reviewing the results to even note if there are duplicate contacts, they send the entire list a news release.

Can you recall some of the worst pitches you ever received or heard of?

One of my favorite bad pitches was one of the first sent to the Bad Pitch blog. It was so bad, Gawker picked it up. Someone was so in love with alliteration, they tied their news to a hurricane and the title of a porn movie. Um, they’re a data recovery service.

What are you thoughts on personalized email pitches versus mass press release distribution services?

A couple of thoughts on this topic. First and most importantly, accuracy and relevance wins over scale every time as far as I’m concerned. As far as only sending out a press release, would you only send out a resume if you were looking for a job?

A press release is NOT a pitch. I know some find success with mass email pitches. But I think it really depends on the type of news. As soon as I get a pitch and it starts with “Hi,” or “Dear Editor/Blogger” it really doesn’t matter what the pitch is about. Since I know it’s a mass email, I’ve already assumed it’s off target. And 9.89 times out of 10? I’m right.

What do we think?