In our blog, we put a lot of effort into crafting helpful pieces that tell you how to get amazing results from your DIY PR and marketing efforts. And we hope you're diligently following all our tips and tricks! But it occurred to us that you might also need a handy guide or two on what NOT to do.
After all, you could follow all our must-do steps to a tee, and then unwittingly make that ONE disastrous PR mistake that completely negates all your hard work. You could have checked 10 out of 10 items off the to-do list, but you may have also done something to seriously tick the journo off. The fact is, there are certain PR fails that will get your email sent to the 'mark as spam' folder faster than you can say 'PR faux pas.' So - what are they?
We've assembled the Top 5 Journalist Pet Peeves we've encountered over the years. These common foibles will help you stay on the right track, and when you couple them with our to-do's, you'll have your business name in lights in no time! In other words, avoiding these PR no-nos will help you get a yes-yes!
1. MASS EMAILS
95% of the time, mass emails just won't work. We know this; we've heard the feedback over and over again from countless journos. It's almost impossible to create stock-standard template language that will be relevant to 50+ media contacts and their own unique beats and objectives. Sending customized, strategic pitches to specific contacts may seem like the slow way, but it's actually the fastest way to PR results. To do this, building individual relationships based on mutual value is crucial. Reach out and introduce yourself – you know, like a human being! Let the journalist know how you found them, what prompted you to reach out, what you have in common, who you are, what you do. Show an awareness of their work. Read it - get familiar with their beat and tone. Based on that, explain how you THINK you can add value - and then ask them how you can ACTUALLY best help make their lives easier. Connect on social without pitching something; engage, like, comment, and repost. Don't just reach out when you want something. Journalists are people, too, not just random email entries in a database. Whatever you do, don't use templates and forget to sub out the dummy text for the journalist's name. "Dear [Mediacontact]" is a disaster. Misspelling the writer's name in your haste to get as many emails out as possible is equally off-putting.
Avoid greetings like: 'Hey babe!' 'Howdy!' or 'Hey girl!' or sign-offs like: 'Stay pretty,' (beauty PRs and founders, take note!) Leave this kind of language for texts to your friends or marketing language to your loyal customers, if that works for you. If you've never met the journo before, keep it professional. Don't abbreviate the journalist's name to a nickname to create a false sense of closeness. For all you know, they hate that nickname! Yes, you want your pitch to stand out – but not for the wrong reasons, so let your story shine. A simple 'Hi Sarah,' and 'Many thanks' will do fine – they're classics for a reason. If you want to be besties with journalists, it will take time and nurturing. Think of it like online dating; start with a coffee before you get too forward or entitled with your approach.
Part of being a good PR is being aware of the news cycle and what's going on in the world. If you are oblivious to crises, plights, political updates, economic disasters – your pitch could come across insensitive and ignorant. Not the best way to get a response. Equally as offensive is blatantly capitalizing on a crisis to sell whatever it is you're selling. If people are dying, falling seriously ill, or in grave economic distress, be very careful about how you 'use' the crisis to 'strengthen your pitch.' Shamelessly opportunistic pitches at the expense of other people's suffering are not a good look.
4. EXCLUSIVE PROMISES
You can't promise an exclusive to someone when you've already sent the release out en masse to 50 contacts. An exclusive means just one – you can only find this news in one place. You are offering the contact something no one has seen before. If you've farmed it out far and wide, don't try to hock it as an exclusive. It will likely come back to bite you and put you on 'send to spam' status in the future.
5. BAD TIMING
Unless its breaking news, you need to send your pitch out with some lead time, BEFORE your release goes out to media en masse. Sending your pitch the same day your release hits the newswire is useless to most journos. Dropping someone a short line a week before your news goes live is a good idea. Journos are busy. They're working on several stories per day and need to forecast and plan.