It’s challenging these days to capture the attention of reporters and bloggers. Everyone is so busy, overwhelmed by the amount of content flowing their way, and inundated with pitches.
So when I opened an e-mail this morning that started with “Hi, Mark, you social media guru, you”, I can’t say I was surprised. It was an attempt to be creative but, unfortunately, it didn’t work. First, I’d never considered myself a “guru”, and it makes me uncomfortable if someone describes me as a “guru” or a “social media expert”. I may be good at offering social media services but “guru” is extremely lofty territory.
This pitch got me thinking about the mistakes made by PR folks and companies when they approach bloggers and media. Having seen thousands of pitches as a reporter for more than 10 years, and created some of my own pitches (including many that failed to resonate), here are some things to avoid.
1. Trying to be too creative, cute or out of the box. Yes, you want to stand out from the crowd but at the end of the day your pitch will resonate if there is a strong, compelling or interesting story. You can dress it up all you want but the focus should be on the story.
2. Not knowing what the reporter or blogger is interested in. I’m still getting pitches for telecom equipment even though I haven’t written about telecom in many months. And I also get pitches about technologies that I have absolutely no interest in.
3. A lack of personalization. At least the person above used “Hi, Mark”. I’ve received countless pitches with no name at all or “Blogger”. If you really want my attention, show me you’ve done a little bit of homework.
4. Sending a press release about a new product or service but not offering a chance to try it out. This is particularly relevant for online services that don’t involve shipping and that can be turned off after a certain period of time. Yesterday, for example, I got an e-mail pitch about Slacker Premium that went on and on but didn’t offer to let me check it out.
5. Not making it easy to opt-out. If you’re going to visit my in-box without being invited, you should be polite enough to make it relatively easy for me to have you go away. My biggest nemesis these days is Cision, whose clients pound away with press release after press release but make me do the work at unsubscribing. I’ve suggested to Cision they offer a bulk opt-out option but that would be too easy and not Cision-friendly.
6. Sending press releases with no URL to the press release itself. Sometimes, a press release arrives that could be tweet-able but without a link, it ain’t going to happen.
7. Pitching clients who would conflict with my own clients. I think it’s fairly well known that I work closely with Sysomos but you’d be surprised by how many social media monitoring services pitch me about their industry-leading offerings.
8. Sending a pitch that has no story or angle. We’re all busy and I really don’t have the time to think through what your pitch should be. That’s your job. Make it easy and accessible for me to quickly “get” why your pitch is different, interesting, exciting or innovative.