There’s lots of advice on how to make a good media pitch.
The thing is a lot of pitches are bad. I spent more than two decades as an editor and sometimes editor and publisher, of newspapers, magazines, and digital news sites. That put me on the receiving end of goodness knows how many pitches.
Many were just wrong for my publications, but quite a few were just plain bad pitches.
What follows are nine ways to torpedo your media pitch. And here’s the thing. None of these were “one off” mistakes. They happened repeatedly over a 20-something year career on the other side.
- The Name. In this Internet age, there’s just little excuse to get the name of the journalist or publication wrong. When they used the wrong name, it was the clearest indicator that they didn’t even check out our website. Once, a lady making a pitch kept calling me by the name of the editor at a competitor. Even after I corrected her. She blamed it on Cision. I can forgive if you call me by the name of my predecessor, once. But my competitor? Multiple times?
- The basics. While serving as a group publisher, I was running three rural community newspapers in north central Tennessee and south-central Kentucky. Two were twice-weeklies, Monday and Wednesday. The other was weekly, publishing on Thursdays. There was a guy who made pitches to me regularly, and more than once I’d informed him of a little fact. “Now, we want to see this in the Sunday paper,” he’d say. Of course, there was no Sunday paper. He’d been told this more than once, but it did not sink in.
- Correct information. While serving as editor of the then-daily Clarksdale Press Register, a new PR group took over marketing for our local hospital. Their account lead came in town and as we chatted, he said something about all the corn fields. We had no corn fields. Our community grew cotton. Tons and tons and tons of cotton. No corn. I corrected him. We chatted about cotton for a while. His first press release referenced the “sun-scorched corn fields.” When I informed him of his error, he told me I could fix it myself and asked me who was going to know the difference anyway. I mean, only every single person in our community.
- Educating me about my newspaper or my town. I was often surprised at the regularity with which someone pitching a story would turn on me if I declined. I didn’t know what I was doing. I misjudged my market. I was clueless about what constitutes a good story. I was too dumb to know my readers would love this. When you do that, you aren’t really winning friends and influencing people. I still laugh about a guy at one of the big New York PR firms – you’ve heard of them – who told me I truly didn’t understand the town of Apple Pass. I’m not sure where Apple Pass is, but at the time I was editor of the newspaper in Aransas Pass.
And here’s a few more quick takes.
- Getting mad if I cut or added to a press release or story.
- Agreeing to write the story, and agreeing to the deadline, then disappearing.
- Giving the story to a competitor before sending it my way.
- Similarly, trying to embargo me but not a competitor, or another type of media.
- Demanding specific placement in the paper. No, you can’t have the front page. No, you can’t have page 3.
The thing is, I always tried to show some respect for communicators, particularly when they came at me with a media pitch. It’s hard work and successes come far too infrequently. Having been on both sides, I’ve seen this first-hand.
There’s so much readily accessible information, there’s just no reason to torpedo a media pitch. But if you feel the urge, just refer back to this post.