The seven deadly sins of pitching to a national newspaper

Posted on: 2013-05-30 in How To   |   Tagged: how to pitch a journalist journalist pitch

Alex Singleton (@alexsingletonuk), a former newspaper journalist, is author of the forthcoming book The PR Masterclass. Here he explains some of the mistakes PR practitioners make when pitching to the nationals.

Have you ever found pitching a B2B PR story to the nationals a pain in the neck? Most practitioners want the prestige of a national newspaper story, but find that securing the interest of a newspaper is a lot more difficult than pitching to a trade magazine. Here are some of the deadly sins to avoid.

  1. Pitching a product or personnel announcement. None of the readers of a national paper care about your new B2B product, or the fact that you’ve got a new head of HR. They’ll cover the launch of the iPhone or the appointment of a new chief executive of a FTSE100 company. But B2B PR needs to be more creative than this and it should always look at what the end consumer of the newspaper will find relevant.
  2. Being too cheap to do proper polling. Opinion polls lend authority to whatever claims you are making. But not everyone sees the merit of spending money on them. They try to cheapskate by putting a web poll on their website or asking their Twitter followers. This won’t work, as newspapers want to know that the poll is statistically credible. That means you probably need to use agencies such as YouGov, Opinium, ComRes and Survation.
  3. Writing short press releases. Over 28,000 websites say that “press releases should be short”. They’re wrong: the most effective PR campaigns routinely send press releases that are 500-1000 words long. If you have a story that’s weighty, the press release will need some length to communicate all the facts. Certainly, the story should be clear from the headline and first sentence of the release, so a journalist can quickly see if he wants to use it. But putting some meat into the press release is actually helpful.
  4. Using sector jargon. Your industry might talk about “H.264 collaboration methods”, but readers of a newspaper would prefer if you said “video conferencing”.
  5. Ringing to ask “Did you get my press release?” This is the most annoying question uttered by PR practitioners. A typical journalist is bombarded with dozens of calls of these type every day. They are mildly offensive: they imply that the journalist is too incompetent to read his email. A phone call should never seem like a junior press officer has been told to ring a long list. It’s fine to ring to provide some benefit to the journalist, or ascertain if they want an exclusive, but make the calls personal.
  6. Pitching in the afternoon. Daily newspaper journalists are busier in the afternoon, when they’re trying to write articles to deadline. It’s normally better to pitch in the morning.
  7. Not integrating coverage with general marketing. The biggest benefit of national press coverage is that it gives B2B vendors credibility. If you’re not quoting the coverage, linking to it, or sending reprints to potential clients, are you getting the best results?

Alex Singleton is a public relations strategist and trainer. Thousands of PR practitioners read his helpful PR ideas emails – a free service. You can find out more about them by clicking here.

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The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog is managed by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, founder TopLine Comms, an inbound marketingB2B content marketing agency and proud HubSpot partner agency and takes contribution from anyone sensible in the industry with something intelligent to say.  Follow Heather on Twitter @TopLineFounder or contact the B2B PR Blog editorial team via email on [email protected].


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