3 ways to sabotage your PR pitch (and 3 tips to save it)

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Many pros equate PR pitching to a numbers game, but successful pitching requires careful targeting and a deft touch.

A conversation I had with a prominent Chicago TV reporter at a Pilates class suggests that less is truly more when it comes to pitching, and many PR pros might be unwittingly sabotaging their own pitches.

Here are my new friend’s primary complaints:

(Anti) social media pitching: Tweeting a well-crafted pitch to the right reporter can definitely result in a story, but their interest will disappear if they see you’ve sent the same pitch to a gazillion other journalists when they check out your Twitter profile.

Tip: Instead of firing out dozens of the same tweet, ratchet back the number of tweets. Instead, build relationships with key journalists and bloggers, and DM them when you have a great story idea.

Wildly irrelevant e-mail pitches: There’s no question that a great email pitch can generate great results. However, every journalist I’ve ever met has complained about being deluged with irrelevant pitches. The reporter I was speaking to was no exception and told me about pitches that were spectacularly wide of the mark, including one that invited coverage of an event in Florida. (She’s based in Chicago.)

Tip: Although researching and targeting journalists takes time, the costliest effort is the one that generates no results. Invest more time in your media research, be sure to familiarize yourself with the journalists’ recent work, and pitch selectively. Your success rate will improve, as will your relations with the journalists in your sphere.

Over-persistent follow-up: According to my friend, she and her colleagues have noticed a new trend, and they don’t like it. Purveyors of wildly irrelevant email pitches are now following their pitches up with repeated emails such as this one:

“Hey there, since I haven’t heard from you about _____, I thought I’d circle back around to check your interest in case you missed my first email.”

Tip: Journalists are busier than ever. In addition to monitoring the wires and their email, they also have to keep an eye on social media and the avalanche of online content. Help them work more efficiently; send one follow-up email, and only if that journalist seems an ideal fit for your story.

[RELATED: Find out how to craft the perfect pitch at our April PR & Media Relations event in NYC.]

And now, a pitch that worked beautifully:

My new friend went on to tell me about a story she’s working on that is the product of a great PR pitch. The pitch—from a local conservancy about an interesting winter phenomenon—was an exclusive, sent only to her. It’s within her geographic area of coverage, and it’s the sort of visual that will play beautifully on TV (and online video)—in short, it was perfect for her outlet.

In this case, the PR rep wisely elected to take a shot at winning coverage on her network. That one perfect pitch is going to generate more coverage than a phalanx of pitches to outlets that won’t be interested in the story.

Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-books Unlocking Social Media for PR and New School Press Release Tactics. Follow her on Twitter @sarahskerik.

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