Dear PR People, Please Stop Sending Terrible Pitches

Learning how to write a good PR pitch is a finely tuned skill. Unfortunately, it’s a finely tuned skill that the vast majority of PR people lack.

If you’re reading this post, you either stumbled upon it while Googling ‘how to write a good PR pitch’ (kudos to you for taking the initiative), or (most likely) you sent me a terrible PR pitch and I directed you here.

If you fall into the latter category, don’t get discouraged. I have been there myself (as have most PR people) and I want to help you. When I first got into the PR and Media Relations business a little over five years ago, it was completely by accident. While the general premise of marketing psychology made sense to me, the rules of PR were foreign and I screwed up many times along the way.

In fact, the first time I sent a media pitch to a short list of bloggers, not only did I make the (very rookie) mistake of sending a mass email, but to make matters worse I made the mistake of accidentally CC’ing them all onto the same email (instead of BCC’ing like I thought I did). You can imagine how well that went over. It was my first media pitch and within hours I had about a dozen scathing responses from furious mom bloggers flooding my inbox berating me. It was bad.

But as you can probably surmise, I bounced back. I’ve since learned how to pitch media contacts the right way, and I’ve even been able to move into the writing and reporting side of the media industry. Life is good.

Bad PR pitches and mistakes happen to the best of us. The important thing is that you learn from your mistakes and move on. If you plan to have any future in PR or Media Relations at all, you need to stop sending terrible PR pitches!

Related: 6 Tips for Pitching Bloggers

So without further ado, the rest of this post is dedicated to holding an intervention for my fellow PR people. I promise I’m not an asshole; I’m really doing this because I love you (yes you) and because I do want you to keep pitching me…the right way!. Read on for helpful advice on how (and how not to) pitch me or anyone else that’s worth their salt.

The Anatomy of a Terrible PR Pitch

I spent so long as the person sending the pitches, it still surprises me sometimes when I’m the one getting pitch emails (several times per day) in my inbox. The even more baffling part is that 95% of them are truly terrible.

If I’m being honest, I don’t even know if some of them would be considered ‘pitches’ so much as endless drivel about a business I’ve never heard of and don’t care about. Here’s the breakdown of how most of them look;

  • Subject Line: “Florida Timeshare Company Offers Condos on Beautiful Beach”. Do you see the problem here? If I didn’t know better, this e-mail could be easily mistaken for spam from a timeshare company. First of all, there’s nothing newsworthy or eye catching about this subject line to inspire me to open the e-mail. Secondly, there’s nothing in the subject line to indicate I’m about to be pitched.
  • Copy/paste press release and hit ‘send’. No, just no. In case you didn’t know, press releases are dead (but I’ll go on a tangent about that another day). The bottom line is, if I open your email to see paragraph upon paragraph of information, I’m not going to read it and neither is any other media contact or blogger. Copying and pasting a press release also shows that you didn’t customize the pitch to me, and you may not even know what I write about. Which leads me to…
  • You didn’t do your research. I write about business and marketing. And on occasion, parenting, lifestyle and travel. If your pitch is unrelated to that (unless it ties in somehow), I’m probably not going to write about it.
  • The pitch isn’t newsworthy. So, you just launched a new business or product? Congratulations, that’s not a news story. Thousands of interesting businesses are launched every day. If you don’t tell me why it’s relevant, or why I should care, I’m not writing about it (and neither is anyone else).
  • There’s no call to action. You might assume it’s obvious, but it’s not. If you don’t tell me what you want me to do with the information, odds are, I’m not doing anything with it. Do you want me to interview someone, write a story about it, send you a gold star in the mail?

The worst part is, about half of the shitty PR pitches I get would have potential if they were presented in the right way. Don’t tell me what your client’s product or service is, tell me what the STORY is. The main agenda for any blogger, reporter, or journalist is to tell a STORY that sells, not sell a product or service in their story.

How and why is what you’re pitching relevant to the marketplace? If I have to dig for the information, even if there’s potential, odds are I’m not going to spend my time on it.

Components of a Kickass PR Pitch

If you’re sick of not getting responses on the media pitches you send out, try writing them this way:

  • Rework your subject line. First and foremost, try including the word ‘pitch’ or ‘story idea’ in your subject line so the media recipient knows what it is and doesn’t mistake it for spam. After that, brainstorm some good subject lines that would actually entice someone to open an email.
  • Do your research on who you’re sending the pitch to. I’m not one of those with a huge ego that expects someone to court me for two months before pitching me. I know you’re busy too and have a job to do. But, you need to at least have an idea what I write about and what my writing style is. It’s a major waste of both of our time if you pitch me something completely unrelated to what my beats are. Bonus points if you reference something I’ve written before and comment on it.
  • Don’t paste a press release. DON’T. STOP. NO EXCEPTIONS. Write a few short sentences explaining why your pitch is relevant (a paragraph if you must) along with bullet points. Feel free to include a quote from someone at the company that I can use in my story, and point me to a link with more information (or a link to a press release).
  • Do tie your story to current events, trends etc. Find the story within your story and pitch me on that.
  • Include a call to action. Tell me if you want me to interview someone, write about you, share something on social media, you get the idea.
  • Do follow up, just don’t stalk me. I get busy and occasionally need to be poked. Follow up with me once or twice via e-mail. No need to reach out more than that or stalk me on every social media network. If you don’t hear from me after that, I’m probably passing on your pitch.

Kickass PR Pitch Example:

Hi Blair,

I read your recent story on media pitching and can totally relate to what you said about XYZ. I’m reaching out about a trend I’ve noticed in the PR industry that you may be interested in writing about.

    • 90% of PR people send bad pitches according to XYZ survey
    • 50% of pitches never get opened
    • XYZ product or service solves this problem by doing XYZ

Here’s how I anticipate this will impact the industry

I’ve included a quote from our company founder if you’d like to use it in a story about XYZ product.

“Made up quote from someone at the company” – Bigwig, Founder of Made Up Company

If you think your audience would benefit from knowing about this, contact me to arrange an interview, or feel free to share the information in a story or social media post.

If I don’t hear from you I will followup by the end of the week.

Kind Regards,

Awesome PR Person

Conclusion – Keep On Rockin’ Me Baby

Bad PR pitches happen. The good news is, you can totally recover and set yourself on the right path. The even better news is, your clients will appreciate it and doing it right the first time takes a lot less effort than chasing down PR contacts with terrible mass pitches.

I’m a firm believer that being on the receiving end of media pitches has made me a better PR person (and perhaps vindication for some of those terrible mass emails I sent early in my career).

It’s easy to understand why so many PR people get stressed out and burned out by lack of results. And it’s easy to understand why so many businesses and startups are suspicious of PR people, because to be completely honest, most of them don’t know what they’re doing. The PR and Media Relations industry as a whole is in need of a major overhaul, so if I can inspire just a handful of people to rethink the way they handle client accounts, I’ll sleep better at night.

In the meantime, if you’re sick of not getting results and need quick media placements for clients, check out our 72 Hour PR Service. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like and yes, it works.

Good luck and happy pitching!

Related: After the PR Coverage: 11 Ways to Get More Exposure Out of Press Coverage