If you use Help a Reporter or Profnet--or if your PR rep does--here's how NOT to pitch reporters.

That Delta flight attendant telling you not to smoke in the lavatory.

source: netanimations.net

I recently posted queries on both services. I included very specific criteria and instructions (like what to put in the email subject line or what information to include) in the queries to make it easy for the right people to respond. And many did, as usual. But every time I use these services, I get a slew of pitches that are way off topic or don't follow the directions. This is one of the best ways to not only NOT get the coverage you want, but to create a bad impression for your brand. (Even if you're using a PR agency, YOURS is the brand is still more likely to suffer. I don't know why, but I'm more likely to remember the company being pitched than the pitcher).

Here's what you should do when responding to reporters' queries:

  1. Read carefully. Not just the subject line. Make sure you're a great fit and don't respond if you're not. Sometimes, there are specific requirements for business size, location, etc. Off-topic pitches are the bane of every reporter's existence and do more to put us off than you think they do. Too much time is wasted on the creation and processing of off-topic pitches.
  2. Follow directions. Many reporters include a question or two in the query so we can figure out if you know your stuff or not (sorry, but that's one downfall of using these services--lots of people who aren't fully qualified). We're not looking for a dissertation, just a sentence or two. Forget this step, and it's easy to pass you over for someone who did answer. Or say you don't follow the "Put X in the subject line" directive. Many of us use filters so all emails related to a query are funneled directly to an email folder. Your awesome fit could be missed in our over-stuffed inboxes if you don't use the right subject.

The next time you or your PR person wants to respond to a query, take a breath. Read it again and make sure you should. Then do it right.

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