A PR PSA: Stop pitching products or services; Pitch stories

It amazing how PR and media coverage go hand in hand, yet they speak completely different languages. However, the local news language must win for both sides to be successful.

The 5 Second Rule

It’s not just about dropping food on the floor. It’s the average amount of time your news release has to get the attention of a journalist – on a slow news day.

Our emails are flooded with pitches, just as “good” as yours, and they generally end up in the trash file if you’re lucky, and in the “delete deleted items” if you’re not.

Get our attention in the first 5 seconds with a real pragmatic way you’re going to make our lives easier and give us good local content.

You are writing to a bunch of burned out people

Journalists have one foot in the grave today and the other on the “escape pod” button. Anything anyone can do to make a reporter’s life easier or give that weekend morning producer content is going to be appreciated at celebrated.

With a few specific sentences, you can exponentially improve your chances of getting read or heard.

If you make our lives more difficult with incessant follow up calls, we’re going to remember you are the person who’s number to NEVER answer. We’ll blacklist you faster than you can “Hello ___________”

Nobody reads email

As the leader of four newsrooms, I couldn’t send a email that read “FREE MONEY COMING TO YOUR DESK TONIGHT”, much less get them to read your pitch that matches every other pitch we’ve ever seen. (Do they pull you aside in PR school and tell you to ONLY writer in that particular formula?)

There are better ways to get the attention you want, but it might take a little more work.

Yes, we got your email

Assume that is true for ever pitch you’ve ever sent and stop calling to ask if we got your message. It’s just as desperate as texting the date you went on two weeks ago and ghosted you and asking “Are you still interested?”

There are better ways to follow up without that intern calling to confirm what you already know. We got the email and we immediately ignored it.

Know who you are emailing

I had so many pitches and calls from PR people, thinking “She’s the News Director, she must make this decision. I’m going as high as I can go.”

You don’t understand the hierarchy of a newsroom when you do this. You’ve especially done wrong when you lie and say it’s an “Urgent call for the News Director” because your event starts in two hours. Urgent to a News Director means a car accident call from an employee or a new tornado warning being issued.

You are not, and will never be, urgent to a News Director, with they way you’re pitching now.

Stop pimping products and sell the story of your product

I didn’t realize how far apart these two things were until I started working with PR people and sales clients. You are so steadfast in your belief of your product you are missing the headline that you are an expert in a topic local news might cover.

Would you rather have 5% coverage of pimping your product or 50% coverage of you an expert in your product? In the day of authenticity, you aren’t being authentic when it’s all about you.

“There’s a thousand you’s, there’s only one of me.” – Kanye

Some newsrooms specifically hide your content and emails from other newsroom employees because of the bulk. It’s great you love your product, but it doesn’t matter if WE don’t love your product. In an average market you’ve got 3-5 local TV outlets, about 10-15 digital outlets, and maybe 2-4 newspapers if you’re lucky. We have 100 pitches a day with at least 2-3 follow up emails from each.

The unfortunate part is you need us more than we need you. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. But you don’t always know how to play the game. It’s not your fault, the rules have changed and nobody told you.

Check the time before you call if you must call

Calling at 4:55? We’re almost in news time and there’s a good chance of breaking news. Calling at noon while I’ve got a winter weather warning bearing down? You’ll get ignored or hung up on.

How often have you ever checked the sites of the places you are emailing when you email? During a weather event I’m only looking for local pictures, NWS, DOT, city/county news releases, and anything else weather related. Your message will get lost in those and we’ll be annoyed you didn’t respect the current situation to talk about a new hand cream when I’ve got a city shut down because of a foot of snow.

Do you want fries with that?

Stop asking a question about “Do you want me to send some pictures of our event?” There’s a simple answer to that you aren’t always realizing. The ones who do get a 50% better chance of being covered. The ones who don’t might not get a return phone call or email.

The long and short of it

Journalists don’t read a 6-page document unless it’s an affidavit of probable cause or a court ruling. They don’t even fully read the health benefits because it’s too long. If your product comes with “War & Peace” style pages, we automatically think “If they can’t tell their own story in less than a page, how am I going to be able to do that?”

Don’t go in the back door

Maybe you know one of the sales people. Perhaps you workout with a success manager. If you pitch us, don’t get a response, and then go to sales? Our Spidey senses are already up. There’s a big thick electrified line between news and sales. Whenever a sales person pitches and idea to the newsroom, it’s automatically thought to come with strings, lessening your message. Now we’ve got two messages from your to delete.

There are even some newsrooms that ban salespeople from pitching to journalists and have to go through the chain of command because this type of “back door” attempt became all too common.

Media outlets might be desperate for your message

We might actually be craving what you bring to the table, but you’re doing it wrong. There is a good chance in an hour conversation an experienced journalist could give you all the ways to get good attention and not “don’t ever take a call from this number again” message.

Interested in learning the keys to getting local media attention? Reach out and we’ll set up a time for a small investment on your part.

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