How to (Effectively) Pitch PRNewser… Among Other Reporters

By Shawn Paul Wood Comment

email-bad-PR-pitches

Quick Quiz: Have you ever secured a story about a local award that your resident business journal gave your agency? No, you say? Then why in the world would you think it would fly with PR magazines, websites, or blogs?

Like, say, this one.

You know the industry aphorism that “PR agencies are usually the ones that need PR the most”? Welp, the same is true for the art of pitching. Since PRNewser has been around, we have noticed one depressing fact: The junior staffers given the authority to pitch leave the sloppy seconds to PR outlets.

C’mon people! Shouldn’t we — your ilk and standard bearers — deserve your best? We are the ones that care the most about the progression of this industry, but it’s like the mindset is this:

“All right, our clients want NYT, USA, and HuffPo, so we’ll tell a story with them. Our boss is interested in PR Week and PRNewser, so send them that our VP renewed her PRSA membership to take on a more concentrated role with her local office.”

Sadly, that has never worked. And yes, that has been a real pitch we have received.

We are former journalists. Hacks-turned-flacks. Folks on the light side of the Force. Whatever you want to call us, we’ve been there. We know a thing about award-winning pitches. Our mantles look shiny and bright. So, here are some adept and resourceful tips you can use for pitching us (or others) and getting your name (or others) in lights.

1. Awards are for your social positioning, not traditional pandering. Congrats on getting that award for best this and most innovative that, but they “all get those.” And much like your mom would say, “If we do it for one, we have to do it for them all.” And we don’t want to do that. Post it on your Facebook and Twitter feed.

2. Say my name. Say my name. We still get pitches for the editor we had two people ago… and two companies ago. We know Cision is better updated than that. Too bad, personal media lists aren’t. Know your targets and pitch personally, OK? Thanks.

lucy-pr3. “Hope you’re well” can make others a little sick. It’s comical because you are probably a nice person, so wishing others well is most likely genuine. However, how many pitches have you written, edited, and read that begins with that sentiment? Assume your subject is well and find a way to connect.

4. Promotions happen. Make the pitch matter. There are thousands of PR agencies in this great nation of ours, and among those companies, you can assume people are being promoted weekly. That creates a selective need. You know how you save the bigwigs for interviews? Do the same for promotion pitches and you’ll see better coverage.

5. Build the bridge and sell the story. Why does your pitch matter… here? All reporters ask that question. Why should I care about this story if I can’t write it? Why should I care about this pitch if I still have to pitch it, and I know it will be a losing battle to my boss?

product6. Commercials are only good during the Super Bowl. Your client has a widget, and you have an obligation to promote that widget. But why, for the love of Edward Bernays, do you assume that widget will find a home in a national PR blog?  It won’t. Kudos on the widget but we sell perception and image and industry here.

7. We can’t shill, we share. Let’s say your client has a widget that will help communications. The problem is that is your client’s widget. Build a story that positions your client at the top of the heap but use others in statistics, stories, or testimonials, because if you don’t… we will. And much like other reporters, there are many stories out there that don’t require that much elbow grease. Just sayin’.

8. Targeting a publication means you understand the aim. Whether it’s PRNewser or NPR, you have to know both what you are pitching and why you believe this story makes sense there. If you can’t connect the dots for the reporter, odds are the reporter will go find another page to draw upon. Hit a bullseye every time.

9. Fluff ain’t the stuff. The bane of every reporter’s existence is sifting through a pitch full of embellishment, horse crap, and tons of industry jargon. And since PR folk are the worst at using it, can you imagine the pitches we get? Pray for us.

10. Pitch the story, not the product. Again, we tell stories. We share experiences. We touch upon the PR page. Other writers discuss their singular beats. Know reporters can go anywhere for a product. Those never get discussed in emails that work. It’s the story behind the product that matters most.

Oh, and by the way, this blog has two contacts. Two points for you if you can find them. Happy pitching! Make us all proud!

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