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):

To:

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 davefleet.com 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.

Regards,

[Name]

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

(Photo credit: dkg)

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.