Ah...the good ol' relationship between journalists and PR professionals. "Complicated" just skims the surface of their relationship. Sometimes they play well and it results in the best PR opportunities. At other times, the two sides snipe at each other like squalling kittens.
But, in the end, the truth is that they need each other.
Journalists rely on interesting news pitches to feed their ever-hungry audience. And PR pros rely on journalists for media attention for their brand.
But the more both sides learn about the other, the more successful it will be for each one.
Let's take a few moments and see what PR pros can do on their end to improve this relationship.
Just go on Twitter and search the hashtag #PRfail and you'll receive a laundry list of grievances from journalists on the pitches they receive. And for good reason -- there have been more than a few pitching disasters out there.
But how can you know what journalists want in a pitch email -- and, more to the point, what they don't want?
The folks over at Fractl surveyed over 500 journalists and created a report that gives us insight into how journalists tick -- namely, what irks them about pitch emails. Armed with this information, PR people can deliver pitches that are better designed to hit the mark, interest journalists, and not drive them crazy.
Let's look at 8 of the biggest PR mistakes from this report and what we can do to avoid them.
8 PR Mistakes to Avoid If You Want the Best PR
1. Irrelevant Pitches
This was chosen as the top PR pet peeve among journalists. And for good reason. In this day and age, when finding out a journalist's beat is so easy, there really is no excuse for sending irrelevant pitches.
Do your research beforehand and find journalists that cover your industry. If you can't find the journalist you want in a particular outlet, do not simply send your pitch to a random journalist or the editor. Instead, do your research. You might want to invest in a premium tool like Hey Press or Anewstip that will help you find relevant journalists and their articles and contact information.
2. Too Many Follow Ups
A barrage of daily follow up emails is a major pet peeve for many journalists. So how many follow up emails should you send and how should you send them?
The same report from Fractl showed that online writers and editors prefer between 0 and 1 follow up emails. And if they receive a follow up email, they prefer it to be between 3 and 7 days after the initial pitch.
How do you make that one follow up email count? First, keep it brief and succinct -- it's not the time to write a long-winded email. Remind them briefly of your story and inquire whether they're interested. Provide all of your contact information and conclude it with a friendly but professional sign off.
3. Too Much Self Promotion
Some journalists have complained about getting a "story" that is obviously just a thinly-veiled plea for self-promotion. The bottom line is that or this journalist-PR pro relationship to run smoothly, it needs to be beneficial for the journalist as well.
Any story that you pitch needs to truly interest the journalist's audience. Whether it's a product launch or a new brand-wide initiative, you need to show how it serves the greater good (beyond your brand) and why the journalist's audience will want to know about it.
Some research can help. Follow the journalist on social media and take note of what kinds of articles are most liked and shared by followers. This gives you an idea of what the journalist's audience cares about.
4. Cold Calling
Cold calling is one of the least effective tactics when it comes to journalists. And for good reason -- who of us likes cold calling in general? It is just so...cold. (Sorry, couldn't resist that).
Instead, get to know journalists in your industry and develop a relationship with them. How? Take the time to read their social media posts, as well as comment on and share their posts. After doing this for a while, a short email message that gets straight to the point will reach journalists in a way that cold calling won't.
5. Mass Email Blasts
Email pitches should never be sent out in large batches. This email technique, while easier than the alternative, lacks the personal touch that make the difference for journalists.
Instead of sending out your pitch in large batches to multiple journalists, taketime to craft your email pitches individually. Once you've chosen the most appropriate journalists who fit your industry and who have covered similar stories, you'll want to individualize your email messages for each one.
Include details about why you want them specifically to cover your story. You might mention specific stories they've covered in the past and why you believe this makes them qualified to cover your story. Show how your story fits their audience and why you believe they will benefit from covering it.
6. Generic Angle on a Common Story
Journalists deal with stories all the time. They don't want stories that are too cookie cutter -- generic and almost identical, with an angle that has been done to death.
When crafting your story and pitch, brainstorm a little. Look for ways to make your story refreshingly new. Do your research into similar stories and look for ways to make yours different.
7. Lack of Personalization
PR people can fall into this trap very easily -- you write so many pitches that you just want to get it out and to the journalist as quickly as possible. But a lack of personalization tells journalists that you're just in it for you. A few personal touches, however, can show journalists that you genuinely think this story is a good fit for them as well.
Do some basic research, including the journalist's name, beat, and past stories. Such details help the journalist connect with your story and makes it more likely your pitch will be accepted.
8. Just a Copy of a Press Release
Just sending a copy of your press release shows journalists one thing: You don't care. Don't get me wrong -- a press release has its place in your strategy and can help your brand land a story. But it's not the only piece to the puzzle.
Email pitching, when done right, is a powerful tool to reach journalists and explain your story. A good pitch can draw journalists to your story and convince them tha that they're the person to cover it.
The journalist-PR pro relationship isn't going anywhere any time soon. What we can do, though, is learn how to work together amicably. That means avoiding common PR mistakes that drive journalists bonkers. Avoiding these contretemps will help nurture good relationships and create the best PR opportunities for you and your brand.
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