How Not to Annoy Journalists While Still Getting Their Attention
When you have news to share about your brand, or you’re looking to get your name out into the world in the first place, one of the top press outreach strategies you’ll likely turn to is contacting journalists and reporters at your favorite publications. This method is 100% logical: if you want press coverage, you want to contact the people who write for the press, right? A problem arises, however, when you go about contacting these journalists the wrong way.
Today’s journalist can receive up to hundreds of pitches a day. The sad but real truth is that if you do one thing to annoy a reporter, your pitch may never make it past their inbox, much less receive a response. Fortunately for you, you can learn from the mistakes of thousands of businesses and brands who have been pitching journalists for years, so you don’t land squarely in a journalist’s bad side and instead have a better chance of gaining (and keeping) their attention.
Consider these nine outreach tips as you look to pitch journalists:
Get to Know a Reporter
While it would seem the goal of your press outreach is to land coverage in the media, your ultimate goal should actually be making connections with journalists. The best way to do this is, of course, getting to know them personally.
Interact with them on social media. Ask them what they need to make their job easier that day. Send them useful information unrelated to your brand you know they’d be interested in. Showing interest in journalists as people, and not just as mechanisms to get media coverage, will set you apart from all other PR professionals who fail to take the time to do so.
Keep Requests Off Social Media
The world seems to revolve around the internet in this day and age, especially if you’re a digital influencer. So while it might seem like a good idea to contact and pitch journalists on social media alone, you’re more likely to frustrate them or even get blocked if you do this on a consistent basis.
The best way to get a journalist’s attention on social media is simply to friend them, follow them for a while, and interact with them naturally. Then when it comes time for you to pitch them, politely ask how you can best contact them, and send them your news story via that outlet. Conduct all follow-ups through that method, and don’t bombard reporters’ social media with annoying posts like, “Did you get my pitch yet? What did you think?!”
Avoid Picking Up Your Phone
Just like with the social media tip, you also should avoid using your phone to contact journalists at any and all costs. Seriously. Journalists dislike getting unsolicited phone calls that have to do with pitches; in fact, 64% of them consider it inappropriate to follow-up on a pitch via phone. Quartz’s Alice Truong once told BuzzSumo she literally blocks numbers of unsolicited calls related to pitches.
The reason phone calls don’t work is because, as stated above, journalists are very busy people. In addition to the plethora of pitches they receive each day, they also have meetings to attend and stories to actually write, so an unsolicited phone call can severely mess with the flow of their days. You’ll end up on their “never write about” list pretty quickly this way.
Just Get to the Point
You’re passionate about your brand and everything you’re doing as an influencer -- that’s a given. But sometimes that passion means you ramble on and on about how amazing you are, and doing this in a pitch is likely to turn off journalists more than interest them. Long, rambling emails are more likely to get deleted than turned into a published story.
Think about it: you’re competing for this journalist’s attention with potentially hundreds of other pitches. It’s your job to grab their interest immediately with a clear, succinct email about your story and why it’s of interest to the journalist’s readers. Consider writing a couple of short sentences, including a few bullet points, and finishing with a simple question like, “Would you be interested in getting more information about this story?”
Stay Relevant and Personal
Have you ever received an email from a brand who wants to partner with you but simply doesn’t align with your values or focus? The same situation is true with journalists. They don’t want to receive emails which are irrelevant to what they write about (known as their “beat”). So for example, if you’re a beauty influencer, you shouldn’t be pitching a technology reporter.
On a related note, don’t send a pitch en masse. As discussed in the first point, you should know a journalist well enough to customize a pitch to their specific needs and preferences instead of blasting them with the same pitch sent to hundreds of other journalists. These make you look lazy and unappealing; journalists can sniff out an email blast from a mile away, so just avoid this practice.
Cut the Buzzwords
In a similar vein to making sure you get to the point in your pitch, you also want to start thinking of buzzwords as dirty words. What are buzzwords? You probably recognize them when you see them; they’re terms like “game-changing,” “disruptive,” and “cutting-edge.” Even the phrase “reach out” has been voted as one of the most annoying expressions to journalists in the UK and US.
Learn to talk about your brand and business in simple English. If what you’re doing is truly unique and “revolutionary,” you won’t need fancy words to explain that. The old saying “show, don’t tell” is a good rule of thumb to follow when writing a pitch.
Refrain from Sending Attachments
When preparing an email pitch, you may have photo assets or a press release you want to attach. But this is harmful to your goal of getting a journalist’s attention. Some journalists may not like getting attachments, as it’s just another item they need to open or download to view, which can be hassle if they’re on-the-go. Additionally, some email servers at reporters’ places of work could automatically block emails containing attachments as spam.
Overall, it’s just best to avoid sending an attachment unless requested. Instead, provide links to any potential images or press releases. Distribution company Press Release Jet discovered that at least on their platform, pitches with links to a release on a website tend to get up to a 40% response rate.
Watch Your Grammar and Spelling
It may seem like such a simple rule to spell-check and edit your pitch before you send it, but as a busy influencer, you may be tempted to skip this step. That would be a huge mistake, because many studies over the years have shown readers of short emails are likely to judge you for grammar and spelling mistakes.
If you can’t spell something correctly or aren’t sure on the usage of a particular word, this is 2017, after all -- you can easily Google it. This is especially true when it comes to spelling a journalist’s name. If you mess that up, you risk not only looking lazy, but insulting the reporter you’re trying to connect with.
Give Them Some Time
On a final note, journalists and reporters are very busy people. Like mentioned above in point #3, reporters are often juggling multiple responsibilities each day. Some may not even have time to read your pitch until several hours or days later.
You can’t expect journalists to get back to you within the same day of your pitch, so it’s vital to avoid slamming them with same-day follow-ups. You may even want to give them a couple days between your original pitch and your follow-up to make sure you’re not annoying them and just filling their inbox with more content.
Learning how to pitch journalists can be a tricky task. However, if you follow these nine press outreach tips every time you start a new PR campaign, you’re more likely not only to make friends with lots of journalists, but also receive that press coverage you’re looking for.
What other tips have you implemented in the past that have helped you get press coverage without annoying reporters?