Anatomy of a Bad Pitch

Photo of a pitcher As time goes on and more people start to read my site (welcome!) I’m receiving more and more pitches from firms and other PR agencies. That’s fine with me – I’m in the business and I appreciate why pitching is necessary.

Unfortunately, many (most) of the pitches I receive are the kind of pitches that give our industry a bad name.

I recently received a particularly bad pitch – one bad enough to qualify for Kevin and Richard over at the Bad Pitch Blog. I almost hit “reply” with some pointers for the person pitching, but I thought I’d throw the tips out to everyone instead.

Bear in mind that these tips are based on my perspective. Judge for yourself whether they’re any good or not.

The original pitch

First, here’s the original pitch (with identifying information removed – I’m not into “outing” people):


Subject: How social media saved a company millions…

Hi there.  I’m an avid reader of various outlets that focus on social media and thought you would find this case study interesting.  It shows how social media is more than just a trend, but how it actually translates to dollars and cents if done correctly.  […], a $2 billion privately owned company and the world’s largest grower, manufacturer and distributer of […] products recently shifted their entire marketing and distribution model to social media and the results have been incredibly successful.  By leveraging YouTube ([…]) and iTunes ([…]), the company immediately saved $110,000 in distribution in weeks.

As someone in the business of social media it’s always frustrating to hear about its effectiveness and see a lack of tangible of quantitative results. If you want more information including exactly how […] leveraged social media check out the press release below.  I think you’ll find it interesting.  Thanks for listening.

Where the pitch went wrong

Here are a few of the ways I would improve this pitch. I’ll leave the overall structure and writing alone, as much of that is personal style.

  1. Send the pitch to the blogger. BCC = delete. It screams “mass mailing.”
  2. Sending the pitch to me allows you to also address the message to the blogger, by name (if possible). I like the personal touch.
  3. Show the recipient that you know what they write about. I don’t care that you read “various outlets that focus on social media.” Tell me up-front why I should care. Don’t bury it in the last paragraph.
  4. Make sure it’s news. The company immediately saved $110,000 in weeks? Bizarre grammar aside (immediately/in weeks?), the YouTube channel was launched a year ago. Oh, and I would think that a “YouTube channel that quickly became one of YouTube’s fastest growing [sic]” (from the press release) would have more than 17 subscribers.
  5. Include a call to action. What do you want from me? What are you offering to make it easier?
  6. Fix the typos. There’s just one here (distributer) but others in the release. Bonus point: Remember, MS Word’s spell-checker isn’t enough. “Scraped” (from the release) is a real word, but you meant “scrapped.”
  7. Sign your name. Trolls send anonymous messages. Good PR people don’t.
  8. Build a relationship. If you know a blogger-relations campaign is coming up, see if you can get permission to comment or otherwise get to know the bloggers in that community ahead of time, so the pitch doesn’t come out of the blue. At a minimum, try to read the relevant blogs for a while so you know what makes them tick.

A better approach

Here’s how I might have gone about pitching me (assuming the “news” was actually news):

To: davef [at] davefleet [dot] com

Subject: How social media saved a company millions…

Hi Dave,

I’ve been reading for a while and know that you’re interested in social media measurement and ROI, so I thought you would find this case study interesting. It shows how social media can translate directly to dollars and cents if done correctly, and speaks directly to the post you wrote some time ago about measuring success on YouTube.

In 2007 […], the world’s largest grower, manufacturer and distributor of […] products, shifted their entire marketing and distribution model to social media. They’ve just announced that by leveraging YouTube ([…]) and iTunes ([…]), the company saved $110,000 in distribution costs within weeks, and by this point they’ve saved over $[amount].

Please let me know if you would like more information – I’d be happy to arrange an interview with [name, position] for you. In the meantime, I’ve included a press release about the case study below.



What do you think? How would you have approached this?

(Photo credit: dkg)

  • if i was in charge of the campaign, my approach would be to wait for something that was actually news and that was actually compelling for bloggers and, more importantly, their readers. this clearly isn’t news and surely no one in their right minds would expect to see an entire post, spurring an active discussion in the comments, resulting from this post.

    if an external consultant or agency was responsible for this outreach, it would be its responsibility to advise the client that this may not be as strong a story to hang considerable outreach around.

  • Ed – I 100% agree. As I mentioned, this really isn’t news – there’s nothing substantial to it. As a consultant, if a client approaches us with an idea for something like this it’s our responsibility to let them know that (a) it isn’t likely to get any pick-up, and (b) it’s not a good use of their budget.

  • With all the buzz being on social media right now, it’s expected that the bad pitches are going to continue to increase as well. Companies are jumping in the water to find that they don’t know how to swim yet. Hopefully they can soon learn that this is about relationships versus throwing stuff out and seeing what sticks.

    It feels like they put minimal thought into this outreach on behalf of the client and that really sucks….for the client (and you).

  • Yeah, #1 and #3 are at the top of my list. I mean, how hard is it to merge your messages so they at least LOOK like they’re directed to you personally.

    Maybe because I’m a research junkie I rate the effectiveness of the pitch on well they know me. If I get a pitch that looks generic or addresses something I’ve never blogged about/expressed interest in, it goes straight to the trash.

  • Hey Dave, good post. I kind of wish you had emailed the flack that info. I made a telephone pitch to a TV morning show the other day and really appreciated it when the producer said, “You know, I’m just not interested in X, I’d rather see Y. And don’t call me until after 1:30 p.m. CDT. And then don’t call me, email me.”

    Since then I’ve had three successful bookings with that producer. Goes to show you can learn a lot from folks who, like you, shoot it straight. 🙂

  • Cue the Monty Python chorus, Dave, and give yourself a shiny red ribbon for caring more about this egregious spam pitch than it even remotely deserved.

  • I always wonder if it’s good that I don’t get pitched? =)

    While the information wasn’t “news,” there is value in how the company saved costs. I would’ve counseled targeting a high-level outlet (like marketingsherpa or marketingprofs) vs. trying to get wide coverage. This way, they could’ve gotten in-depth analysis which could have been picked up by others in the blogosphere.

  • Casey

    I could not agree more with the tips for pitching. As a PR student, it concerns me to know that people are pitching in this manner. The biggest concern I have is that with every bad pitched received the more difficult it is for the next person, or at least that is my experience. Thank you for the helpful tips in pitching correctly. Just to add one thing: what happened to the human element of actually calling the person you are pitching?

  • Do you often find the PR people hounding you after you get the release (e.g. Have you had a chance to…? When will you blog about this…? What do you think of…?)?

    I am going to publish my own version of this about my experiences with some of the more amateur and/or pushy pitches and people we have had to deal with.

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