There's a lot of bad PR out there, and reporters have had enough.
If you follow them on social media (you should), you'll find no shortage of examples of PR gone bad. Mail-merged pitches with bad first names. Glaring errors in targeting. Overly clever attempts to connect.
It's enough to make you think maybe you shouldn't even bother reaching out – who wants the embarrassment?
But if you look closely through the much-deserved snark, you can learn some smart tips. Some are common sense, others are really insightful:
1. Don't Be a Caveman.
A PR pitch in the comments below my instagram baby bump post (while simultaneously asking if im still a writer bc I’m about to become a mom): pic.twitter.com/uuUSaC4qhl— Sarah Buhr Davis (@sarahbuhr) March 6, 2018
2. Avoid the obvious.
3. Listen to reporters - they want to help you be better.
Haven’t tested this out (and ergo, not sure if I’ll write about it), but this is what pitches should be like:— Matthew Hughes (@matthewhughes) March 6, 2018
• Clearly written
• With a link to visuals
If you’re pitching an app to a reporter, this is how you should do it.
4. Don’t get clever - just the facts, ma’am.
5. Don’t do drugs.
how stoned was the person who wrote this pic.twitter.com/TdwSrejSYg— Mike Murphy (@mcwm) March 9, 2018
6. Be honest and real.
The most annoying phrases you hear (millions of times) when covering startups:— Polina Marinova (@polina_marinova) March 19, 2018
"I wouldn't call it 'a challenge,' I would call it 'an opportunity.'"
"We don't really have competitors."
"Our CEO wrote a really great LinkedIn post I can point you to."
7. Know who you’re pitching.
Just a reminder to PR folks: Please spell your clients' names correctly— Liz Webber (@Liz_Webber) March 14, 2018
8. Don’t wait for proof that a reporter is interested in a story like yours.
Frequent PR pitch: I saw you wrote about our competitor, will you write the exact same story about us, too?— Katie Roof (@Katie_Roof) March 29, 2018
9. It’s not PR if you’re paying for it.
This is not PR. pic.twitter.com/CGTCcOVCV2— Mark Meadows (@MarkRMeadows) March 26, 2018
10. Reporters don’t sign NDAs.
dear all the hs kids invited to the apple event today: very cool! please enjoy it before acronyms like PR and NDA ruin your passion in this career path— Natt การุณรังษีวงศ์ (@nattgarun) March 27, 2018
11. You’re not as funny as you hope you are.
I get pitches pic.twitter.com/rgbHHbe8ep— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) March 29, 2018
12. Be confident.
at last, a PR email as socially awkward as I am pic.twitter.com/Ng5c1nBjZ3— BUM CHILLUPS (@edsbs) April 4, 2018
13. Don’t invade personal space.
Me when someone calls to pitch me on my personal cell pic.twitter.com/8FgSh8KrR2— Katie Roof (@Katie_Roof) April 12, 2018
14. You having a relationship with a reporter doesn’t mean your colleagues do.
PR agency folks: stop freely sharing a reporter's personal cell with your colleagues. just bc i gave it to *you* bc i trust you, doesn't mean your rando coworker can have it for random stuff. invasion of privacy....— Kia K. (@imkialikethecar) April 18, 2018
15. Don’t be ridiculous.
The number of pitches that I even understand has declined below 20 percent pic.twitter.com/VUuWJUXb4N— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) April 25, 2018
16. Snarky advice can be good advice.
17. He just may not be that into you.
When a rep for someone who wanted to come on the show pitched me (cold) I wasn't able to immediately respond. Now it's a game because they've written SEVEN times now without me responding. SEVEN. It's a game at this point. How many times will they write without a reply?— Joe Saul-Sehy (@AverageJoeMoney) April 26, 2018
18. Self-serving news isn’t super compelling.
This is a super surprising result. I don't think I've looked at a press release in 3 years... https://t.co/DzQSx5G1fU— Christina Farr (@chrissyfarr) April 30, 2018
19. KISS (Keep It Short, Stupid).
PR people: Your pitch needs to fit in the length of a tweet. I am not kidding about this. I have 2,400 unread emails now, mostly PR pitches. I give a pitch one sentence to get my attention. If it hasn't grabbed me by then, I just hit delete and move on. (signed) A Cranky Editor— (▀̿Ĺ̯▀̿ ̿) (@MitchWagner) April 6, 2018
20. If you target right, you don’t need to tell them why you’re pitching them, they’ll know.
Any PR pitch that starts with "I saw your recent coverage of colitis..." automatically goes into a very special folder— Michal Lev-Ram (@mlevram) May 4, 2018
21. Beat reporters can smell BS in a split second.
Im tired or the trite meaningless bs that winds up in my inbox— Frank Chaparro (@fintechfrank) May 4, 2018
What does this mean pic.twitter.com/GYIfZbhXGU
Was pitched a $225 million funding round. After asking, they acknowledged only $25 million is equity, rest is debt. Call a spade a spade— Katie Roof (@Katie_Roof) October 22, 2018
22. Don’t do this.
I get pitches pic.twitter.com/gPwqzuVk0T— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) May 4, 2018
23. Don’t replace simple words with jargon.
When the PR person calls a phone call “getting on the horn” pic.twitter.com/qKAfttvvwV— Salvador Rodriguez Meneses (@sal19) May 8, 2018
24. You can pitch women, PoC and other underrepresented folks, without talking demographics.
can't believe I have to keep saying this: stop marketing your female clients based on their gender. stop emailing reporters (esp women) who write a story about gender issues with "hi, you wrote about women, meet this woman I represent." Stop. Do better.— Kia K. (@imkialikethecar) May 15, 2018
25. Take a break sometimes!
dear PR person pitching me something at 3:35pm on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend: u tried— Mike Murphy (@mcwm) May 25, 2018
26. Know the rules.
that’s… not how that works pic.twitter.com/xAewksMndZ— Mike Murphy (@mcwm) June 11, 2018
27. Have a timely reason to reach out.
My inbox, every day:— Alex Konrad (@alexrkonrad) June 13, 2018
"Feel free to reach out anytime you want to talk to Mr. Random Expert"
"Just following up to see if you want to talk to Mr. Expert"
"Would tomorrow work for a call with Mr. Expert?"
"Mr. Expert happened to be in the neighborhood and is now at your office!"
28. Customizing is cool, but you have to get it right.
Apparently going on four years is "new" pic.twitter.com/XoafCXkpmD— Mike Murphy (@mcwm) June 27, 2018
29. It doesn’t take magic to find a reporter.
A note to anyone who's keen to reach out but doesn't know how:— Christina Farr (@chrissyfarr) July 10, 2018
-- I keep my email address public and DM's open
-- As with any human interaction, it really helps to offer to be a resource rather than to send a straight pitch
-- It means a lot when I hear from YOU directly
30. A “no” ends a discussion.
pr person: *sends pitch that isn’t a fit*— Salvador Rodriguez Meneses (@sal19) August 9, 2018
me: *decides to be nice and formally say no for a change*
pr: *hits me with 21 questions on why not?*
also me: *😏 well at least now I have something to tweet to all the pr ppl who claim a simple no is all they‘d like*
PR person: please just reply, even a no is so helpful— Alex Konrad (@alexrkonrad) March 11, 2019
Me: ok fine no
PR person: while i have you, wait here are 3 more things to check out
PR person: ok lets just get coffee
31. Sometimes a nice conversation with a reporter is enough, for now.
When a reporter asks pr for an intro on a non-drama subject, just intro. Don’t ask what you will be talking about. You are over-pr ing it.— Sarah Buhr Davis (@sarahbuhr) August 10, 2018
32. Don’t abuse reporters because your client is breathing down your neck.
To the PR person who has emailed me twice then cold-called me 3x in the last 2 hours, all to pitch me a meeting with their CEO *later today* -- I am sorry but by the journalist's code I can never respond to you until I die— Alex Konrad (@alexrkonrad) August 15, 2018
33. THINK OF THE story YOUR WOULD hate to see your competitor get & Pitch it for yourself.
Free tip for pitching reporters. Only pitch stories that you'd actually want to read in a publication about your competitors.— (((Jonathan Shieber))) (@jshieber) August 23, 2018
34. The point of the embargo is to give the reporter time to report.
love this 1.5-hour heads up pic.twitter.com/C40I0iu1AF— Mike Murphy (@mcwm) August 29, 2018
35. Creativity is ok.
Personal finance PR pitch of the day. Millennial tie-in is a bit ridiculous, but the smiling Etsy avocado toast did grab my attention! pic.twitter.com/cgWl0PcFWT— Tara Siegel Bernard (@tarasbernard) September 7, 2018
36. For the love of god, don’t mail merge.
Today's #PRFail: A pitch starting with "Hi XX," which I guess is technically correct since I'm female. But the #PR person wanted me to promote her client without offering a story idea or any info showing her client would be of interest to my audience. #PublicityIsYourJobNotMine— Lylah M. Alphonse (@WriteEditRepeat) September 14, 2018
37. A good article is like a good tomato. It’ll be ready when it’s ready.
Dear PR people, the more you ask when a story is going to run, the less I actually want to spend time writing the story you’re asking about. (I know you have clients that are likely asking, but it’s so annoying and stressful!)— Marty Swant @ SXSW (@martyswant) September 14, 2018
Me to PR person: The article will be published at some point during [SPECIFIC TIMEFRAME]— Matthew Hughes (@matthewhughes) March 8, 2019
PR person halfway during specific timeframe: HI MATT, JUST CIRCLING BACK, DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU'LL PUBLISH THE ARTICLE?
Ffffff. Just wait! Don't bother me.
38. Even with research, that 99.9% number may not move far.
To the PR people that get upset when I decline your pitches: get over it, reporters receive hundreds of pitches a day and 99.9% of 'em are not a right fit for the publication or beat. Do your research first. Thanks— Guadalupe Gonzalez (@mariainnyc) October 8, 2018
39. YOU CAN APOLOGIZE WHEN YOU FALL SHORT.
Email from someone I tried to interview but who didn’t respond to my deadline in time: “thought the article was excellent, and of course was envious that I had not responded given the quality of people you found.” Future sources — don’t let this be you!— Anna Hensel 👩💻 (@ahhensel) October 10, 2018
40. Don’t be TOO cute.
E) Please do not do this pic.twitter.com/LcKj7HKlZA— Lauren Caruba (@LaurenCaruba) November 16, 2018
41. Don’t blow off reporters until you “need” them.
I've had more contact from Facebook in the last few hours trying to get me to change this headline about Sheryl Sandberg than I've had in the last 2 weeks of me contacting them over + over again for comment on the story itself. kind of speaks for itself. https://t.co/FydgIbyCNB— Taylor Hatmaker (@tayhatmaker) November 30, 2018
42. Take time to craft your story.
43. A picture’s worth a thousand words: Don’t shortchange yourself with crappy imagery.
Startups, invest in good imagery! A few snazzy illustrations or photos that work as featured images can make or break you receiving press coverage. If all you have is a logo and screenshots, you'll end up being branded with random images we journalists choose.— Josh Constine (@JoshConstine) November 28, 2018
44. Put some soul into it.
Stories are just data with a soul -@BreneBrown— Eric Bloomberg (@BloombergEric) January 6, 2019
LOVE THIS QUOTE
45. Leaders don’t say they’re leading.
And if I could get the power to stop any #PR pitch from including the phrase "the world's leading" or any such variation, it couldn't come a day too soon. If you have to call your client or yourself world's leading, you probably aren't.— Erik Sherman (@ErikSherman) January 11, 2019
I don’t think I’ve ever read a press release that hasn’t described a company as “the leading”— Mike Murphy (@mcwm) January 13, 2019
So many leaders out there
46. CASUAL Words can WORK AGAINST YOU.
A strange commonality among the absolute worst pitches I get: the writers all talk about how they just found or “stumbled upon” our publication. Why? WHY? pic.twitter.com/8HCtCtstF7— Jason Feifer (@heyfeifer) March 1, 2019
47. The reporter probably didn’t write that headline you hated (THREAD).
This should have been a blogpost, but I don’t have the energy so:— Laura McInerney (@miss_mcinerney) March 19, 2019
I DIDN’T WRITE THE HEADLINE: a primer in why journalists say this and why it’s not as ridiculous as it sounds.