There are some good and bad ways to approach the media with your press release or story ideas. Are you breaking any of the media etiquette rules? If so, you may be scaring away the media (which will get your pitch deleted or ignored). Here are some ways you might be sabotaging your PR efforts:
- Not using the 5 W’s (Who, What, Where, When, Why) is your press release: Following basic journalistic principles, include the most important information upfront, in your opening paragraph (typically the 5 W’s), so that the reporter/producer knows the overview of the story before getting into the details.
- Including Too Much Information in your Release or Pitch: Reporters and producers don’t have time to read an entire history on your company or sort through pages of brochures. Stick to the main story/segment idea, try to keep the release to one page if possible, and the pitch to a paragraph or two. Use bullet points to summarize main concepts in your press release.
- Including too much technical jargon: Try to use the simplest terms possible when describing your story idea or writing your release for distribution. The reporter/producer may not be familiar with all of the technical terms of your industry, so it’s best to speak in a more common language.
- Sending your release or media via an email attachment: Sending attachments via email to reporters/producers is a sure-fire way for your email to get put in the spam folder. Always cut/paste your release or story idea text directly into your email. If you would like to include photos, videos or other media, mention that these are available and offer to send them if they are interested.
- Sending out mass pitches: It’s okay to send the same pitch and press release to each media outlet. However, sending a generic email where you CC: or BCC: several reporters shows that you haven’t taken the time to personalize the pitch to that publication. Why not read a little bit about the reporter’s/producer’s beat and the stories he/she has covered in the past, and address them in a personal email, with a suggestion for how they might consider using the story. Your pitch is more likely to get considered this way.
- Hounding the reporter with follow-ups: Although you do need to follow up with the reporter after sending your pitch, don’t call or leave multiple messages for the reporter or producer if you don’t hear from them. One follow-up phone call or email should suffice to ensure that they received the information, and if they are able, they will most likely get back to you with their interest.
- Pitching via Social Media: Most editors, reporters and producers use social media as a way to communicate their stories and share information related to the subject matter they cover. It’s not the best way to pitch a story idea. So unless the reporter specifically requests you to tweet out a story idea, stick to email.
- Pitching the Wrong Audience: This mistake relates to the mass pitching mistake listed in #5. Be sure to research your targeted publications or media outlets to ensure that they are a good fit for your story idea before pitching. If they haven’t covered stories like yours in the past, or if you don’t think their audience would be interested in your story, don’t pitch that media outlet.
These are just a few mistakes I’ve seen that scare away the media. Reporters, editors, producers or PR practitioners: What others would you add?