How to Embarrass Yourself With a Repulsive PR Pitch (Step-by-Step Instructions)
A couple of months ago, I wrote an article urging my PR comrades to treat reporters like human beings. I thought this was a piece of common knowledge that we could all agree upon. But alas, my naivete (I’m one year into the biz) has proved me wrong.
Despite all of the handy listicles, webinars, and starch-shirted professors that are supposedly “educating” PR folks, reporters are still suffering through pitches that are insincere, lengthy, and worst of all, not the least bit newsworthy.
Unfortunately, I just got a taste of that repulsive brew that I try to spare reporters from.
Although the bulk of my work revolves around engaging with reporters, I also play double-duty. On behalf of a client, I am the editor of a digital news platform owned by a regional economic development organization. That means I receive occasional pitches, most of which I run by our team.
But this morning, I received a pitch that was about as appealing as a glass of raw sewage water. At first, I was going to hit “delete” and move on with my day. But I opted to turn it into a cautionary learning lesson instead.
Now, let’s break down this digital massacre into step-by-step instructions for writing an atrocious PR pitch.
1. Write a really bad subject line
[Redacted] Festival St. Louis announces details of park production, SITS and new fall programming
What’s the hook? What’s in it for me (or the audience)? From the looks of that subject, the answers are nothing and nothing.
2. Don’t address the recipient by name
My name is Dominic, not “News Desk.” I don’t even have a news desk. Oh, wait — addressing someone by name would require typing something unique for individual reporters instead of using that cutting edge copy-and-paste function.
On top of that, do recipients not deserve so much as a “Good morning” (the email was sent at 6 a.m.)? Not even a measly “Hey?”
Terrific job establishing rapport right off the bat!
3. Type 1,400+ words
I zoomed my screen out to 30%, which still didn’t give me enough room to screenshot this diatribe of a pitch. Is there any email that warrants more than 200 words to share some news about an event? (Hint: no.)
Write 29 more of these sagas and you’ll have a book ready to publish!
4. Make it all about you
This is where things took a turn for the worse. Not once in this pitch did the publicist inquire about how this news might fit into our publication’s editorial needs. If they would have simply skimmed the “About” page, they would have seen that we only cover stories in a specific part of the region, which this pitch had no connection to.
Awesome stuff from a PR “professional” who contracts for one of the largest agencies in the country (I did some digging on LinkedIn.)
So, there you have it folks: how to earn a spot in an editor’s trash folder in four simple steps. All jokes aside, PR peeps: please up your game so I can stop writing these articles.
Pioneering social media panda bear Tagawa “Peter” Panda was born on a Chinese game reserve in 1969. He emigrated to the United States in 1987 speaking no English, with only the fur on his back and $97 stored in a Jansport fanny-pack wrapped around his waist.
In 2003 while searching for food on the campus of Washington University, he discovered a computer lab where he would ultimately teach himself web development, graphic design, and immerse himself into the growing digital media evolution that was erupting at the time.
With his trademark surly demeanor developed during beatings on his boat ride from China to the U.S., as well as having a penchant for eating vast quantities of bamboo, and enjoying Scotch and cigars, Peter is broadly recognized for coining the phrase “social media” in 2004. He joined Elasticity in late 2009 as the agency’s director of social media strategy and wildlife relations. Friend him on Facebook here.