As PR professionals, we strive to hit the right note with reporters and producers when pitching a story. We research the reporter’s beat, what issues they’ve previously written about, how they prefer to receive pitches. We familiarize ourselves with their news outlet so we can tailor our pitch.
Pitching is a skill set that requires persistence, understanding the story and your client’s messages, keen awareness of trending topics, the current and constantly evolving news landscape and more. Even the best PR pros can improve their approach to news media outlets, while certain elements remain out of our control and can derail the best intentions (breaking news story, weather disaster, etc.). But Alyson Shontell, a reporter who covers news on startup companies for Business Insider, admits she receives “an absurd amount of startup pitches” and has learned to manage her inbox by looking for THREE key ingredients. In this PR Daily article by Andrew Cross, “Why I Didn’t Open a PR Pro’s Three Email Pitches,” Shontell shares three things that won’t make her open your pitch email:
1. Doesn’t know the sender. Are you enticed to open mail from senders you don’t know? I’m not and most reporters don’t either. We’ve all received spam emails for junk that doesn’t pertain to our interests. We delete these emails. Same with reporters who receive pitches from PR pros who have not conducted research or tailored their pitch; even worse, if they’ve contacted the correct reporter in the first place. Placing a call to the reporter first would be ideal before emailing them, if at all possible. For such pitches she’s received, Shontell says,” I had never met or heard of the people sending me the news, and it was clear they didn’t know me either.” Not good.
2. Sender uses unknown company name in subject line. Shontell was pitched about a new company, Rally.org., whose name lead in the email subject line. She didn’t know the company and automatically dismissed the pitch, never opening the email. Give the more interesting news immediately in the subject line. Make it alluring and relevant to what the reporter covers.
3. Embargoed news. Not a favorite among reporters. Shontell shares this is not particularly compelling, as publications want exclusives. They are not fond of having news every other publication will be receiving.
She goes on to share that she received three back-to-back emails from the same PR pro using each bad example. Unfortunately, none of their emails contained upfront, important news about the big investors who could give the unknown startup credibility.
We hope these tips help you get it right. For more pitching insight, check out my post "Trade Tips: How to Sell a Great Idea in 5 Steps."
By Nicole Hayes
Nicole Hayes brings a strong background in consumer outreach, partnership development and media relations to McKinney & Associates. Many of her communications strategies were cultivated during her work with international public relations agency Fleishman Hillard Inc., where she developed and implemented strategies and media relations outreach for large consumer and government clients.
With her skilled foundation, Nicole sought a career to support her core belief that people make the best investments and launched her own D.C.-based media relations consultancy, Pieces of Life, to serve small businesses and non-profit organizations. She is committed to the mission that drives McKinney and its clients.