Frustrated because no one responded to your latest email pitch for news coverage? Wondering why a request for a return call from a reporter yielded nothing? Your chances of success go up provided you avoid the seven media pitching blunders listed below.
- My name is spelled incorrectly. Reporters, producers, and editors get dozens of emails a day. How do you make yours stand out? Spell the recipient’s name incorrectly (or address the wrong person entirely). That mistake, which shows you didn’t care enough to double-check your work, will likely get noticed. Unfortunately, the result will probably be a deleted email.
2. It smells of a mass press release. Mass press releases for large community events, non-profit fundraisers, or government meetings get a pass. But if you’re a new kid in town and want to get the message out to each and every reporter in the area, send your emails separately. The group treatment doesn’t sit well in this situation.
3. You’re not thinking of my audience. Over the years, I have gotten hundreds of email pitches from public relations firms from around the country. I currently host a business TV show focused on the stories of local companies and we don’t typically feature authors. If these PR firms just emailed me, I would let them know that. Instead, they send me a mass press release (strike one), they give me a pitch on an author (strike two) who does not live anywhere near where I live in Virginia Beach (strike three).
4. It doesn’t get to the point quickly. The one complaint I hear from Assignment Editors is media pitches take too long to get to the point. A 4-and-half-page press release is too long, but what’s worse is a 4-and-a-half page press release that doesn’t get to the point of the pitch until page 3.
5. You are selling something. You are an entrepreneur, so of course you are selling something. But the sales message won’t work in getting news coverage. It could earn you an appointment with a salesperson to buy a commercial or an ad.
6. You haven’t figured out a story worth telling – yet. Reporters are people, too, and if you can engage them in the story you tell, you have a greater chance of success. Is there an injustice being done, a rags-to-riches story to share, a lesson to teach? Focus on how your story impacts people and see whether your story can elicit a response from the recipient of your email.
7. You don’t follow up. Sometimes a really good story idea falls by the wayside in a mass of emails. It happens. Unless the new outlet tells you to stop reaching out, you can and should make sure your press release or email made it to the right inbox. Stories fall through all the time, and a well-timed email or phone call from you could mean the difference between getting your story covered and not getting any media exposure at all.
I’ve mentioned 7 reasons why no one is reading (or responding) to your press release. But keep in mind, journalists need stories to tell, so your input and expertise are very much needed. What should you do instead? Whether you’re trying to be featured on TV, in the newspaper, or on the radio, the most important thing you can do is spend time to make sure your story is the right fit. Do a little homework on the places you want to be featured. Watch a reporter’s past stories. Read one of their articles. The extra work pays off in the end.