In the world of public relations, getting the media to take notice of a company is a major accomplishment. For startups, media coverage is crucial for building a strong brand image and effectively communicating key messages to customers. However, many startups make mistakes when pitching to the media that can damage their credibility and brand image. Here are ten common pitching mistakes to avoid:
1. Poor Research
This is the primary reason why startups have problems with using research in their work. Most founders and marketers face lots of pressure to place news stories and gain coverage in mass media. As a founder, it is highly recommended that you conduct research and familiarize yourself with the publications you’ll be pitching, read what the reporters have written and ensure the story you’re pitching is a good fit.
Few things work as well as getting to know the journalists you are hoping to pitch. You should send your story to someone who covers your industry, whether it is tech, education, lifestyle, business, etc.
A reporter will recognize if a founder or marketer has taken the time to do their research. Staying abreast with the media landscape will help you to gain a good knowledge of the market trends and the news business.
2. Lengthy Pitch
Sending an email pitch to journalists is the most common way to get a story about your brand placed in a media outlet. In the PR profession, information-rich emails are a great use of your expertise. Even so, no one will be interested in reading an email that lacks personality and focus. If your email pitch is too long, then reporters are likely to ignore it, even when the story you’re pitching is good.
“Real writing is rewriting. Rewrite your pitch until the first sentences are clear on what you want from the reporter.” ~ Renee Warren
Stick to one page and no more than 300 words if possible. You may begin with an anecdote, connect it to the product or service, include a paragraph with figures from reliable sources for context, strengthen it with a quote or two and then conclude with a boilerplate statement about the company.
3. Lack of Focus
Save additional information for future emails, or post it on your website and then link to it in your press release. Focusing on too many angles at once may lead you to all sorts of problems. Not only will the pitch be too lengthy, but it will also confuse and annoy reporters.
4. Writing Mistakes
When you’re pitching a journalist, your job is to make their work as easy as possible. Nothing turns off a journalist more than a poorly-written pitch. Common spelling and grammatical errors, misspelled names, and flawed facts in the content are likely to lead to immediate rejection irrespective of the quality of your story. The last thing that journalists want to do is spend extra time struggling to understand what you’re saying.
“In addition to proofing for grammatical errors, make sure you are not misspelling the reporter’s name in a pitch, using the wrong news source, or point blank including incorrect information to ensure you are taken seriously.” ~ Rachel Sprung
5. Mass Pitching
Some startups believe that volume outweighs quality when it comes to pitching and media lists. Technology has made it easier to send more pitches in less time. However, rather than taking the easy way out and doing mass pitching, it’s important to do your research and build a media list before you email anyone. An effective media list should adapt your news to different journalists through different story angles.
Beyond using different story angles for different journalists, you should also include personal touches that make it clear that you wrote this pitch specifically for them. Personalizing your pitches makes a journalist feel special. You cannot do this if you go down the route of mass pitching.
6. Poor Timing
Lead times are very crucial; therefore, you should not do your media outreach on a whim. Sufficient preparations and a robust strategy are of much significance. It is worth stopping to evaluate your schedule before hitting the send button.
“Journalists are extremely busy people whose professional lives are spent chasing one frantic deadline after another. But there are times when they are less busy, and those are the times you probably want to be reaching them.” ~ Conrad Egusa
Journalists have due dates, just like everybody else. It is crucial to provide advance scoops to publications with lengthy lead times or arrange a product launch that mirrors the publication dates of the media.
7. The Title Lacks News
Your title can make or break your pitch. The headline is the very first text the journalist will see, and your goal is to draw their attention.
“Write the subject line as if it were the headline of a news article.”
The title is just as important as the material itself. A good news title communicates direct benefits that are relevant to your audience.
8. Too Much Jargon
Too much jargon makes you sound pompous and makes it hard for journalists to understand your news. It forces journalists to waste time looking up certain terms. The jargon might also reduce your SEO score since search engines favor simple language.
9. Being Promotional
The last thing a reporter needs is to spend time reading your pitch only to find out that there is no news in it. You must never send a journalist a pitch that is self-promotional. Instead, always strive to offer the journalist value.
“When writing a pitch, introduce the journalist to your brand and share why he/she should cover your story, don’t make it all about you.” ~ Beth Adan
10. Multiple follow-ups or none at all
“Continuing to follow up until the journalist responds is the surest way to convince a journalist or blogger to blackball you.” ~ Joan Stewart.
Too many follow-ups can irritate journalists. Crowding their inbox, pestering, and nagging them every hour will diminish your chances of current and future media coverage. There is nothing worse than calling the reporter minutes after sending an email. A good alternative is to send a reminder email a few days after your initial pitch. If, after your second follow-up email, the journalist does not respond to a story idea, it means that this is not the right time or subject for their publication.
Additionally, do not forget to formally thank the reporters for the coverage they have provided. A simple email or thank-you card will be enough.
Avoiding these common PR mistakes will help enhance your effectiveness. With these tips, you can increase the chances of your story idea being published, protect your brand reputation and build your credibility.
Do you need help writing the perfect pitch? You can use our pitch templates to write outstanding pitches. With our comprehensive media database of over 1 million journalists, you can also find the best journalists to send your pitches to.
Alternatively, when you sign up, you can let us worry about your targeted pitching. We can take care of everything right from content creation to content distribution. With a professional press release, some winning guest posts, and an eye-catching media kit, we can help you make a splash in your industry. By submitting your content to the right media outlets and startup directories, we can also boost your online visibility.
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