This week’s Prime Time PR Chat was focused on media relations. It came from a previous chat topic on press releases and my ongoing obsession with our industry’s failure to address the issues around media pitching.
I was lucky to have Jered Martin from OnePitch as my guest to discuss journalist relationships. OnePitch was “created by tech-savvy publicists and journalists who believe that the PR industry is long overdue for some innovation.” My thoughts exactly.
Proper pitching seems like #PR101 but a steady stream of #PRfails means that this is NOT simply the occasional untrained staffer, a fly-by-night agency, or a couple of rogue freelancers (which exist but sadly are not the main culprits). This is a failure of leadership across the entire industry. It’s poor training, it’s turning a blind eye, it’s grasping at straws, it’s letting the client down. Day-to-day journalist outreach has gone unchecked by senior managers for too long and it’s time to take our pitches and our professionals to the next level — whether it’s from an agency, in-house team, or freelancer.
🛎️Ding ding ding — we have a winner! Yes, it’s about weaving messaging into a valid, newsworthy story, AND then pitching the *right* people. #PrimeTimePRchat https://t.co/sBhNSYrRRu
— Tressa Robbins ✨ (@tressalynne) July 23, 2019
Media Relations Mistake: Not understanding how newsrooms work
A.S. is a producer for the local affiliate of a major broadcast news station. His tweets are hilarious. He is literally pitched everything under the sun. Except for two keywords to note – he is a local TV guy and he’s the producer. So local, we get that, don’t pitch national stories. And producer, he doesn’t assign news stories, he puts the show together. Yes, he’s likely in a daily meeting with the news director, but pitching him is not the most direct path to getting news coverage. And if your pitch is lame or irrelevant all you will get is a snarky comment on Twitter.
This is key. Additionally, making sure that it’s not only relevant to the news source but to that particular journalist as well. Research is important. Know who you are pitching to. Just say no to blind, vague pitches. #PrimeTimePRChat https://t.co/5qL9f34KET
— Jameka S. Whitten (@JamekaShamae) July 23, 2019
Media Relations Mistake: Not researching your targeted journalist
A.L. is an award-winning journalist — awards such as the Peabody, so real awards. He works for “an innovative, credible and relevant media organization” that produces news via a website, public radio program, podcast, and social media platforms. You have heard of his organization. He speaks passionately about issues such as feminism, gun control, and politics. He’s a minority. So imagine his surprise when he received a pitch that said something along the line of Trumps was right… when he made racist comments… Oh boy! So A.L. did what most frustrated journalists do, he posted the pitch on social media, along with a tweet about his irritation as to how off base it was for him. I follow A.L. on Twitter and his post about the president’s tweet pitch had me thinking: was there an intentional thought behind sending this to someone who clearly does not cover this angle of politics or was it just another errant PR pitch? I set off to find some answers and #PRfail hijinks ensued. A.L. was kind enough to message me back to confirm what I thought I was reading, then I went for a search to find the agency that sent the pitch. Unfortunately, I found nothing online except a poorly tended Facebook page. Ah, well there’s your answer. They’re not a real agency, they don’t even have a website. Then I thought I would appoint myself as the PR police and messaged the “company” (via FB, so thanks for that stain on my soul) to find out what they were thinking and if they wanted to share their strategy with me.
This was the response: “I never beat my wife.”
That was my only response for over 24 hours. I waited for the ‘just kidding’ or ‘wrong person’ reply but that was it. That was his response. I found out through other messages that are really random and slightly offensive that it is a male and he’s very against “traditional” media and he suspects that I believe everything I read in the news. Except that’s who he pitched — the news. A body he obviously has great disdain for. None of his responses made sense to me and I decided that I just needed to back away slowly. So while he wanted A.L. to run with his story (interviewing a very political person) he really is disgusted by this whole thing that we call news reporting. Odd for someone whose job it is to work with journalists. But he’s right and I am wrong because good news since he started his business he has sent out 100,000 pitches. Yep, that’s why he is so successful – according to him. He measures this all based on the number of pitches he has sent. There is nothing on his social media profile about the actual success of these pitches, actual news stories that he’s gained for clients but he highlighted the number of times he’s hit the send button. It was all too weird and wrong so I thought I would just go bark up another tree.
Media Relations Mistake: The wrong contact, plus the added issue of sending a time-sensitive pitch without allowing enough time
So I moved on to a fashion pitch faux pax. That is much easier to digest. This one comes from an outspoken journalist C.K. who is hilarious, but also, she lives in New York and there’s more than one C.K., so do your research. Her steady stream of public relations fails makes me laugh and cry. This one, while not weird and toxic, is just lazy. A PR firm decided, one day before a fashion show, on the other side of the country, to send a journalist that doesn’t cover anything related to Badgley Mischka, fashion, or clothing an invitation to a runway show. She doesn’t even cover retail. This type of pitch is just a lazy ‘send all’ that infuriates journalists.
Domenica D’Ottavio over at Hubspot did an awesome report on this topic earlier last week and I thought, ok yes, it’s time to talk about this again. An overview: The Top Ten Worst PR Tactics To summarize [HubSpots] findings in their entirety, these are the top ten worst pet peeves regarding PR pitches with which journalists struggle:
Hasn’t researched your work / Irrelevant to your beat
Hasn’t researched the publication you write for
Too many follow-ups
Self-promotional without a real story
Mass email blasts
Generic angle to a common story
Lack of cooperation or transparency (i.e. broken embargoes)
Copy of a press release
It’s not just me and my little PR squad’s crusade. This is a real issue affecting our industry. We can keep shouting to the wind or preaching to the choir, but I think that the public relations industry’s continual failure to meet journalists’ needs is an issue for us and for our clients.
Specifics we discussed included:
- What makes a good media pitch? What makes a bad pitch? How can we as individuals, organizations, and as a professional tell the difference?
- So if we know why there are so many misfires why does it keep happening? What do agencies & practitioners need to do to change to the current climate of daily tending #PRfails posted by Journalists?
- If I am a nonmarketing #SMB person what do I need to know about #mediarelations & getting my products + services covered? Who can do this well for me? How do I know they’re doing it right? How do I ensure my reps are working at the highest standard?
- Bad media pitching is a failure of leadership. What can #PR professionals do to change or improve the situation – internally and externally?
- How is OnePitch different? How does it improve #PR & #mediarelations? What other tools work well?
When hiring a public relations firm, clients who care about meaningful & high-return media relations programs should ask in their interview processes about PR firms’ methodologies & best practices. Get some soup-to-nuts case examples that show level of quality. #PrimeTimePRChat
— MBWCommunications (@MBWComm) July 23, 2019