10 PR Mistakes Startups Should Avoid When Pitching The Media

Attracting the media to write about a client or company remains an achievement in the PR profession. Without the media, startups will undoubtedly find it hard to build a brand understanding and make sure customers obtain key messages. Most startups make common mistakes which weakens their reliability and visibility as well as brand and image. Below are ten mistakes startups make when pitching the media:

1. Poor Research

Startups lack adequate knowledge about research and research methods. This is the primary reason that they have problems with using research in their work. Most founders and marketers have pressure to place news stories and gain coverage on mass media. It is highly recommended that they conduct research and familiarize themselves with publications, read what the reporters have written and ensure what is being pitched is a good fit.

There is plenty that can be done to feign personal interest, but, nothing works well like getting to know the journalists you are hoping to pitch. Startups should send their story to someone who covers their topic whether tech, education, lifestyle, business, etc. Also, if public relations is discussing a certain trade story, an understanding of the industry is essential.

A reporter will recognize if a founder or marketer is shedding reputation. Staying abreast with the media landscape helps to gain a good knowledge of the market trends and the news business.

2. Lengthy Pitch

Sending emails to journalists is the most common practice when seeking to gain exposure in the media. In the PR profession, it is perceived that content-filled and information rich emails are a great use of your expertise. Truth be told no one will be interested to read them as they lack personality and a robust focus. For an email pitch that is too long or too winded, reporters are likely to ignore it, even when it incorporates the best content.

Renee Warren of the article ‘Good Email: How to Write Pitches Journalists will Actually Read’ wrote that:

Real Writing is rewriting. Rewrite your pitch until the first sentences are clear on what you want from the reporter.

Stick to one page or even no more than 300 words if possible. You may begin with an anecdote to a high profile issue, proceed on to connect it to the product or service to publicize, include a paragraph with figures from reliable sources for context, strengthen it with a quote or two and then conclude with a boilerplate statement about the company.

3. Lack of Focus

Focus is one thing, save other information for separate releases. Focusing on too many angles may run you into all sorts of problems. Not only will the pitch be too lengthy and the title incomprehensible, but they will also confuse and annoy reporters.

4. Writing Mistakes

It is the work of the startup to make the life of the journalists as simple as possible. Nothing turns off a journalist more than a poorly written pitch. Common spelling and grammatical errors misspelled names, and flawed facts in the content are likely to face immediate rejection irrespective of their content. The last thing that journalists want to do is to use a spell checker.

Rachel Sprung in her article, ‘7 Silly Mistakes to Stop Making in Your PR Pitches’ suggested that:

In addition to proofing for grammatical errors, make sure you are not misspelling the reporter’s name in a pitch, using the wrong news source, or point blank including incorrect information to ensure you are taken seriously.

5. Mass Pitching

Some startups believe that volume outweighs quality when it comes to pitching and media lists. Technology has made it easier to send scores of pitches in less time and allows for an effective media list. I would recommend researching to see a journalist who covered a story in the past or who covers a specific industry beat.

Include personal touches that allude to the idea that they are the only ones you are pitching and they are special. This cannot achieved if mass pitching and emailing is the technique used. For most times, mass emailing yields very little to zero results.

6. Poor Timing

Lead times are very crucial; therefore, startups should not try to acquire visibility on a whim. Sufficient preparations and a robust research study are of much significance. It is worth noting to examine your schedule before pressing the send button.

Conrad Egusa in his article, ‘5 common mistakes guaranteed to screw up your PR strategy’ offers that:

Journalists are extremely busy people whose professional lives are spent chasing one frantic deadline after another. But there are times when they are less busy, and those are the times you probably want to be reaching them.

Journalists have due dates much like everybody else. It is crucial to provide advance scoops to publications with lengthy lead times or arranging a product launch that mirrors the publication dates of the media.

7. The Title Lacks News

A title can make or break a pitch. The headline is the very first text the journalist will see, and your goal is to draw their attention.

From the editorial piece ‘The Do’s and Don’ts of Email-Pitching Reporters’ the writer states that:

Write the subject line as if it were the headline of a news article.

The title is equally as important as the material itself. A good news title communicates direct benefits that are relevant to your audience.

8. Too Much Jargon

Unless you are writing to a colleague, too much jargon makes you sound pompous and hard to relate to. It forces the journalists to look up on certain terms. It may also not be search-friendly as search engines favor simple language.

9. Being Promotional

The last thing a reporter needs is to be pitched advertising duplicate. Startups must never present content that is self-involved. You must include value to the target audience.

Beth Adan, writes that:

When writing a pitch, introduce the journalist to your brand and share why he/she should cover your story, don’t make it all about you.

10. Multiple or Lack of Follow-ups

PR is all about building strong relationships. In the article, ‘Following up pitches to journalists? 3 mistakes to avoid‘, Joan Stewart writes that:

Continuing to follow up until the journalist responds, is the surest way to convince a journalist or blogger to blackball you.

Too many follow ups can irritate journalists. Crowding their inbox, pestering, and nagging them every hour will diminish your chance for current and future pitches. There is nothing worse than calling the reporter minutes after sending an email. Besides, send a reminder email days after the pitch, and if they do not respond to a story idea, it means that it is not the right time or subject for their journal.

Also, do not forget to formally thank the reporters for the coverage they have provided. A simple email or thank-you-card will be enough.

Key Takeaway

Avoiding these common PR mistakes will help enhance your effectiveness. Startups can increase the chance that their story idea will be published, protect brand reputation and prove their PR-worthiness by avoiding all of the mistakes listed in this article.


Originally published at press.farm on July 2, 2017.