Even though the initials “P” and “R” are short for public relations, the media is still the best way to reach the public.
Yes, we all know that media is changing and, thanks to social media, producers and editors don’t hold the same “gatekeeping” power they once had.
Still, the mainstream media is still crucial to PR success so the best thing to do is to ensure that is to act like nothing has changed and letting the “old guard” still operate under the assumption that they are influential power brokers.
That said, there are certain things you shouldn’t do (not if you want to help your client).
1. Sending out a pitch to multiple outlets without changing the tone of the letter to fit each producer or editor
When sending an e-mail pitch, it’s always a good idea to personalize it to the editor or producer. Chances are, if it’s a good pitch, you may send it out to various media outlets. However, nothing is worse than sending out a pitch that says “This would be a great story for the readers of the New York Times” when you’re sending it to the editor of the New York Post.
2. Have no clue what the media’s target audience is
This happens a lot more than it should. A PR person calls up a member of the media without realizing the target audience and pitches a story completely inappropriate. It’s like calling up a men’s mag like Maxim with a story about purses.
There is no excuse for not doing the research. If you make this mistake and the editor calls you on it, apologize profusely and run away with your tail between your legs.
Some publicists try and cover their mistake by saying something like, “Well, maybe your readers are male, but I think they get bored of just reading about manly things and would love a change-of-pace story about these handbags.”
Nothing ticks off an editor more than a clueless publicist who acts like they know more about the publication.
3. Read from a script
A lot of PR interns are guilty of this. They have no clue about what they’re pitching so they read from a script — badly. Journalists call the people that do this “Jonasas” because the people who make this mistake all seem to be known as “Jonas.”
4. Assume all the members of the media can be bought for free stuff
Yes, there is a joke among the media and the PR industry that if the booze is free, your media event will be well attended. But just because you got the media there and they drank your liquor doesn’t mean they’ll write nice things about you.
Believe it or not, many journalists pride themselves on their ability to have a great time drinking free booze at an event and then write a nasty article under the excuse that they’re unbiased and can’t be bought.
And the bigger the media person (or their publication), the more likely they are to follow this rule.
5. Get offended when someone from the media doesn’t like your pitch
Rejection is a big part of PR. Some people say that 1 placement for every 10 pitches isn’t bad. Producers and editors have different reasons for picking stories and you have to accept that.
It always pays to ask why or what kind of stories they’re looking for, but sometimes you need to admit to yourself a story is a dog and come up with something else. However, remember that what goes around comes around and sometimes the story that was rejected a few weeks ago either becomes the private joke with the media person that helps you become better friends with them.
Who knows? A pitch that was considered lame one day could become the big story on a slow news day.
David Moye is the media relations manager of Alternative Strategies, a full service marketing communications firm. As a media professional with more than 20 years of experience in journalism, PR and publicity, he has used many alternative strategies to get publicity for his clients and has also worked as a consultant for national PR companies like Hill and Knowlton, Fleishman Hillard and Edelman where he helped PR pros tailor their pitches for maximum pop culture impact. He is the creator of PR Puppet Theatre, a YouTube instructional series that CNBC calls “must-see entertainment/ education for every PR flack.”