Back To Pitching Basics

Despite having a set of guidelines on how to pitch me positioned prominently on my site, I continue to receive poorly targeted and poorly-written pitches on a daily basis.

I’ve written in the past about some bad pitches and some really bad pitches I’ve received, and given my advice on those pitches. This time, though, instead of looking at how to pitch, I want to take a look at why a good pitch is necessary.

Let’s consider a straight news release, emailed to someone, against a decent pitch.

A straight news release:

  • Costs little to send per recipient;
  • Takes little or no additional time to draft per extra recipient;
  • Is likely targeted at one or two key audiences;
  • Addresses every recipient the same way;
  • Takes no account of the recipient’s interests or previous work;
  • Does nothing to develop a relationship with the recipient;
  • Has to go through many layers of approval throughout the organization, with many hands making changes;
  • Is generally written to please multiple stakeholders, both internal and external, so gets diluted;

A tailored pitch:

  • Requires research, time and editing for each recipient;
  • Is targeted at the recipient;
  • Addresses each recipient differently;
  • Can refer directly to interests and past work;
  • Can help to build a relationship with the recipient;
  • Is likely to be subject to less peoples’ tinkering than a release;
  • Is written for one purpose and one audience, so can be focused.

In every instance except one – cost – the tailored pitch comes out ahead. The untailored news release is cheaper to send to lots of people, but at what sacrifice?

  • No relationship;
  • No relevance;
  • Reliance on the law of averages to obtain coverage.

In the economic environment we’re in, we’re unfortunately unlikely to always have the budget to tailor every single pitch the way we’d like to. However, even a compromise pitch that acknowledges areas of interest, geographic relevance or an existing relationship is better than a straight news release. In a worst-case scenario, I know I’ve recommended pitching fewer journalists, but doing it well, rather than going out ineffectively to a big bcc’d mailing list.

What would you do if you found yourself with a low time and/or budget for your media (or blogger) outreach? Would you go with a news release to many, a tailored pitch to fewer, or would you take a different approach?

  • I’m might be a bit biased because of the company I work for (CNW Group), but I think a traditional release AND a tailored pitch can work together.

    The advantage of a traditional release is that it is normally longer, and contains more information.

    Tailored pitches take a lot more time to do properly if you try and include all of the information in each one.

    I think a better idea is to send short, tailored pitches about WHY it is relevant to the particular person while providing a link to the traditional release with all the information the journalist/blogger needs.

  • You’re right, Parker, and that’s what I tend to do (or include the release below the pitch). I was just using the examples at either end of the spectrum here.

  • Brad Buset

    Another thing to think about is continuing education about your audience. Doing the research for tailor pitches, whether used in combination with or opposed to news releases, means you have to educated yourself about your potential audience and what they are talking about. In that process, you’ll most likely learn a few new thing that can be filed away for future use.

  • I can only hope that the ‘tailored’ approach is gaining ground among seasoned PR professors teaching the next generation of practitioners. Although I also wonder how much of this education is actually practical – seems like it’s still mostly theoretical.

    I recently ran a major campaign with a couple of very junior PR reps. The first was too timid to call journalists at all. She only managed a few voice mail messages. She could barely even get emails out.

    The second, despite the fact that I specifically said and _insisted_ upon the fact that I didn’t want BCC blitzes … did (you guessed it) BCC blitzes.

    Luckily this was all done in the first (minor) phase of a larger campaign. I pulled both off the project immediately and worked much more successfully with a more senior practitioner.

    Despite shrinking budgets and economic constraints, the tailored approach is one that looks towards the long term and safeguards professional reputations. I don’t want to be considered a spammer. And I don’t want the industry I’m associated with to be perceived that way, either.

  • There’s a definite need for change and more streamlined approaches to pitching.

    To be honest, I’m still wondering why more “pitches” aren’t done via Twitter. Get your news up on your site/blog/newsroom and just get an impacting 140-character message out.

    Obviously it only works with outlets and companies that are on Twitter. And if they’re not… well, why not?

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  • Laura

    I agree- It is best to send both a press release and do the pitch. I am still a student so I have not had to pitch anything yet. The advice is extremely helpful. Any tips are useful right now when it comes to pitching. I know I am extremely nervous for the first time I have to do! But advice like this definitely helps.
    thanks!

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