Three years ago, Alex Aiken, the head for Government Communications declared that the press release was dead. But you’d be hard-pressed finding a PR pro who hasn’t written a press release since then, and speaking from personal experience, we’re still finding it a useful tool for winning top coverage.
That said, media relations is still a competitive field, and with various publications closing down, the future shows signs of PR pros having to work even harder to get into top titles. It’s not impossible though, and the best place to start is by knowing what to avoid when liaising with the press. With that in mind, we give you four things not to do when carrying out a pitch:
- Forget to do your research: You wouldn’t go to a job interview without checking the company’s website, and you shouldn’t pitch to a publication without first knowing what they’re about. Not only will this allow you to tailor your pitch accordingly, it will mean that you can confidently discount the publications that your pitch doesn’t apply to. Remember that there are sub-categories within each press sector; just because you’re pitching a tech story doesn’t mean it’s relevant to all tech titles.
- Use cliché words: If you’ve used words like ‘unique’ and ‘innovative’ in a pitch before, can you hand-on-heart say you’re obeying the true definition? Journalists are more impressed with an engaging story that is a good fit for the publication rather than how a PR person can dress up the story.
- Forget about extras: Remember that journalists might want more than just a story. Offering an engaging image or the opportunity to interview a spokesperson could mean the difference between them running the story or not. Ensure you arrange these before you pitch so you don’t delay the process.
- Ring on deadline day: It goes without saying that if a publication’s deadline is looming, journalists aren’t going to want to hear from PRs unless they have a story that sets the world on fire. Some media databases give that information, so check it out before you give them a call. If you find out for yourself, make sure you keep note of it.
Having your news story rejected is almost guaranteed for PR pros at some point, but avoiding the above puts you a step further towards media relations success.
Alex Brown has just started his career at Skout PR and will be a regular contributor to the Skout blog.