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PR pitches to journalists: three things not to do

PRs live or die on their ability to get journalists to open their emailed PR pitches. But here’s three pitching tactics editors have said they don’t want you to use.

As a PR agency pro, no matter how strong the idea or story you’re pitching, it’ll come to nothing if the editor fails to even read your pitch. Which means we PRs will try all sorts of desperate measures to get editors to take notice.

Here are three things that journalists in my social media feeds have called out as big PR pitching fails.

1) Using offensive or sweary email subject lines

Check the subject line in the email pitch that this editor shared on twitter recently!

Yes you read that right!

Actually, this tweet has been widely shared, which means that the company who sent the email might feel justified that lots of people who did not know their name, do know it now!

But come on. How could insulting an editor be a good long term strategy for convincing them to write positive stories about your company and its products?

PRs already get a fair amount of abuse from editors about the scams they pull to try and get attention from journalists. Please don’t let sweary email subject lines become a trend!

2) Timing your PR pitches all wrong

Here’s another tweet I came across from an editor recently…

Journalists have a life too! If you’re pitching a big exclusive story, then make sure you send it early enough so that the editor will have time to research and write it. Sending it near close of business on a Friday evening will only decrease the chances of it getting the attention it might deserve..

OK, you can argue that the journalist here did stop and read the pitch, so it passed the first test. But who knows if they were able to use it – hopefully they passed it on to a colleague that was working the weekend editorial shift?

You can’t always control when a story is going to break. But if at all possible try to time your pitches to maximise their effectiveness – giving as much notice to editors as possible.

As a rule of thumb, send news in the early part of the day if possible (and even early in the week if you can). And if you’re pitching a column or section that comes out on a specific day, obviously get to know when the editor needs ideas in by.

3. Sending PR pitches where the editors don’t expect (or want) to receive them

And here’s the last pitching mistake – again highlighted by a tweet from an editor…

Lots of people moan about getting pitched on LinkedIn – and journalists are no exception. Everyone hates it if someone sends a request to join their LinkedIn network and then immediately tries to sell them something.

I know. It’s tempting to try and get your PR pitches noticed by sending them through unexpected channels – whether it’s an editor’s personal social media account or their private email address or mobile number.

But unless they have given you permission, it could backfire badly. Or at the very least – if the journalist doesn’t monitor those channels during business hours – your pitch won’t actually get seen in good time.