Why your email media pitches are ignored
I'm constantly asked to explain how creating content for wire distribution is different to crafting press releases, and what we mean by page-ready content.
Of course, we understand that releases include information the client wants to convey. But the problem is simple: journalists don't care about PR messaging. I'd go farther... many avoid reporting it, if they spot it.
This is why the industry uses data as a news hook so often, and the operative word in this sentence is hook. Because it shouldn't be viewed simply as a hook to hang a story off - but rather as a hook to grab, and keep, the attention of the journalist reading the release.
Remember, there has been a massive explosion in the number of releases being sent out. Some national reporters I speak to are receiving dozens of data-driven releases a day. Newsdesks and specialists are simply tuning them out of the day to day.
This means there has to be a trade off. Drown a release in messaging and it won't get read.
This is why so many email pitches are ignored, and why the follow-up call generally ends within seconds, with a firm and rarely polite thanks, but no thanks. I know, because I used to be one of the people hanging up the phone.
If your release does get picked up, key brand or product promotions are more than often removed because they don’t provide any editorial value.
If you've got decent contacts, it's different of course, but we all know how impenetrable digital desks are becoming, and print desks simply don't have the pagination left to carry much PR content.
We rarely issue releases, and instead craft page-ready content. We write the stories ourselves, create or source assets to support them and send them via the wire direct into desks, backed up by a sell-in.
Then we aim to balance the messages with the editorial grit that gets them over the line. The wire is a direct feed into newsdesks that we have access to thanks to our sister company SWNS, an independent news agency.
We’re honest about excessive messaging. We push back on it, knowing it will damage our chances of getting pick up.
Here are 10 tips for getting noticed and published.
1: Tell the story in one short, concise punchy and relevant opening sentence.
2. Wherever possible find an angle that’s new. If the journalist has read the same idea before, they'll zone out.
3. Interpret the data precisely. Don't ramp it up or twist it to fit your idea. Poor use of research will consign your release to the bin and quite possibly your reputation with it.
4. Refer to the study in the second paragraph, or as soon as possible. It is the data that gives your release veracity and weight.
5. Back up your intro next with further insights. Use paragraphs that are as interesting as the intro.
6. Avoid the temptation of using the brand mention too early. The higher the mention, the more likely the release will be rejected as PR puff.
7. Quote the client towards the end of the release. Don't make spurious claims or push products too hard here.
8. Put all extraneous messaging at the end. If they want to do you a favour they might put some of it in. Less is often more here.
9. If you want digital coverage you must include assets of some sort. Pictures, video and digital design work are all pivotal to online publication. When was the last time you read a story online that didn't have them?
10. Remember journalists and publishers are not sat twiddling their thumbs waiting for your press release to drop. Your ideas must be brilliant, especially if they’re data driven.
Written by Chris Pharo, managing director of PR agency 72Point and previously associate editor of The Sun newspaper
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