5 Press Pitching Blunders

At last week’s monthly PRSA luncheon attendees sat at the feet of pitching guru and BYU national new director, Michael Smart. Since serving with Michael on the local PRSA chapter board, we’ve enjoyed sharing PR ideas and successes.  One passion we share is the need for developing a customized public relations package for each national editor we approach. Michael shared strategies to avoid the following common blunders people make when pitching the national press. It should be noted that these relate to building new relationships more than to existing editor relationships.

1. Don’t give background first – Those less experienced with the press may be tempted to launch into their news pitch without any context. First take a sentence or paragraph or 20 seconds to build background and context for the editor before talking about how cool your news is.

2. Use a ”we do stuff” pitch – Editors care more about what you have to say if you have a newsy angle that relates to their area of interest. If you use multiple examples or sources to establish a timely issue or trend, you also increase editor interest. Using metrics, research, or surveys related to current events further ensure successful pitching.

3. Ask if they are on deadline – Some may disagree that this is a blunder, saying you need to find out if you are interrupting when you call to pitch. Michael’s point is that if we have done our homework we will know the publication’s news cycle and hence know ahead of time if the editor is likely to be on deadline. In addition, we should always assume they are busy and be prepared to quickly deliver powerful, well thought out messages that engage the editor and leave them wanting more – even if on deadline.

4. Rely on emotion and emphasis – Raising our voice, increasing intensity, or using adjectives like “biggest, coolest” won’t impress media veterans. Get facts straight, do your research and deliver powerful messages if you want coverage of your news. ‘Nuff said.

5. Focus on yourself – Know your journalists and focus on what interests them. This shows you have done your homework when you call and that you genuinely want to help them. Michael cited an example when then PilmerPR staff member, Devin Knighton, began delivering a series of pitches to Wall Street Journal tech editor and industry titan, Walt Mossberg. Devin had done his homework and wrote the pitch in the context of Walt’s world, not Devin’s or my own. The result was the Mozy CEO and me sitting in Walt’s office and that eventually landed an article in Mossberg’s busy calendar.  

Good reminders for effectively pitching the news. Thanks Michael.

About the Author:

As founder of PilmerPR, John Pilmer, APR serves as a PR and marketing communications advisor for both emerging and established companies. He offers customers more than 20 years of results-driven business PR and marketing experience. John and the firm have provided PR consultation and campaigns for clients such as Mozy, Novell, AdvancedMD, Certiport, NextPage, ElectraTherm, Altiris, Avamar, EmergeCore Networks, FSLogic, INVISUS, 10x Marketing, MWI, Project Insight, REIC, Seastone, US Synthetic and Funding Universe (now Lendio), among others.

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