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It’s no surprise that journalists and publicists have a complicated relationship with one another. Both need each other to successfully start great stories, but outdated pitching practices have put that dynamic on the rocks.
With an average of 23 pitches in a journalist’s inbox per work day (Ragan, 2017) it is not surprising that nearly 95% of them go unanswered (Cision, 2018). If you are looking to get ignored or blacklisted in a journalist’s inbox, here are 7 ways to guarantee that your pitch gets sent straight to the trash or posted as an embarrassing screenshot on Twitter.
1. Pitch a journalist by telephone.
Traditionally, a journalist’s primary methods of receiving news sources were direct mail, telephone, and even fax! Methods of communication were limited; and therefore, the intake of sources was much more manageable.
Fast forward to 2018. There are now several channels for transmitting information and millions of people with access to those channels. Journalists will often post their preferred method on their Twitter or author pages, and as standard practice, PR pros should always oblige.
2. Send an email (pitch) over the weekend.
Along with preferred communication methods, there are also times when reporters are most likely to read and respond to an email pitch. Pitches sent Friday through Sunday are not typically monitored and run the risk of getting lost among hundreds of other emails that pile up within that time. Our own data shows over 75% of responses occur Tuesday through Thursday mornings. Clearly identifying this as the best time for journalists to respond to PR pitches via email.
3. Ignore the (important) details.
Whenever someone spells my name at the coffee shop like Cassy, Kassy, Casey or Kathy, I can’t help but cringe. Nobody likes getting their name misspelled because it shows a lack of care and attention to detail. Pitch emails are no exception! According to Tayla Holman, Associate Site Editor at SearchHealthIT, “the one thing that drives me really crazy is receiving pitches that don’t get my name right. I won’t read beyond the first line in those cases”.
Aside from getting a journalist’s name wrong, journalists don’t want to be pitched about topics that are unrelated to their coverage, just like you wouldn’t want a salesperson calling you about carpet cleaners when you have hardwood floors. “The worst pitches are ones that have nothing to do with what we cover. For instance, blanket PR emails and pitches never go far” (Associate Editor, Fortune). Research a journalist’s social media, personal website (if applicable), and author pages to get an idea of the types of stories they are interested in when identifying your target media contacts. If they are going to take the time to read through, and thoughtfully respond to a pitch, the effort should be mutual.
4. Use a long, unclear subject line.
A good subject line will give the recipient a clear indication of what to expect in an email, but a GREAT subject line is short and to the point. A recent study found that subject lines of 49 characters or less were opened 12.5% more often than those emails which had subjects of 50 characters or more, (Influencer Press, 2017).
5. Send a long pitch filled with technical jargon.
On average, Journalists spend less than 1 minute reading an email pitch before they decide whether or not they are going to respond (AdWeek, 2014). Overcome this statistic by keeping your pitch simple and concise enough for your grandma to understand. Give them exactly what your brand or client is doing and provide them with WHY the action taking place is significant enough for their audience to be invested.
6. Use FuNkY formatting and excessive punctuation!!!!
N0 0N3 L1K3Z 2 R3@D TH1Z!!!! While some may think that funky formatting will help their PR pitch stand out in a crowded inbox, all it really does is cause a headache and distraction for the reader. Remember the above tip? The less work you make for the journalist to understand what you are pitching about, and why, the more likely it is that you will receive a response.
If nothing else, read this:
As a general rule of pitching, less is more. Taking a simplified and direct approach to pitching will ensure the journalist not only opens and reads your pitch but also understands the value of pursuing a relationship with you as an expert source.