Think Twice About That Pitch

Many of use are on the brink of graduating from the Cronkite School with the inevitable goal to obtain a job in the glorious field of public relations that we have all grown accustomed to. As we say goodbye to Cronkite and walk out into the real world where we get to practice what we learned for four years, the real question is what is one of the most valuable tools in order to be a successful public relations professional?… and my answer is it’s all about the pitch.

One of the ultimate goals as PR professionals is to gain publicity for our client, whomever they may be. In order to do this we must solidify the practice of making a good pitch. The only problem is sometimes we will have a client with not so newsworthy material that they would like us to get covered. This is where the pitch becomes tricky because you want to stand out from other press releases that are being sent to a reporter on a given day. Richard Laermar from Bad Pitch Blog introduced a concept that PR professionals should avoid known as “vapor” when it comes to pitch attempts. Basically “vapor” is sending out non-stories, which is a practice that I am sure we will all have to endure at some point in our careers.

I agree with Laermar in the fact that sending out “vaporous” press releases can be detrimental to your role in the public relations arena.  Reporters want stories that they can work with and not something that is going to waste their time. If you send out these non-stories all the time you will gain a reputation with reporters and they will eventually shy away from your pointless content even if you have a really good story that should be covered.

So when that time comes when you start to send out your emails to numerous reporters hoping to get one bite on your content, it is important to remember if what you are pitching is truly worth it or just worth it because you invested your time in it. Laermar offers the advice to not send out press release lacking substance stating,” til you have something worthier of the presses; in other words, don’t believe your own story too much.

So that question I raise is do you agree that non-story press releases could ultimately hurt you and the work you’re trying to do for you client? Or do you think that even if the story does not really have potential we as PR professionals should do everything in our power to try and get publicity for our client?

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8 Responses to Think Twice About That Pitch

  1. tburns says:

    I think that the act of writing a press release for the sake of writing a press release just to get publicity for your client is not good PR in the any sense. When I took my PR writing class, what I took away from it in terms of press releases was you write one when you have content that is worth being printed. That is kind of the point in being a PR person in the journalism school— we get that journalism background to understand what is and makes good news content. There are so many other ways to get “publicity” or awareness out there without resorting to the stereotypical press release by which everybody (especially journalist) defines our profession.

    To add to that, the idea of appealing to the masses is something that is going away. I took Tim McGuire’s MCO 525 class where we discussed the future of business journalism. One thing I took away from that class is that it is about appealing to your target audience (a “duh!” in the PR world). But in saying this, in terms of writing good press releases, if you know your audience well, then you should not spend your time writing a press release that you know will not be appealing or attention-grabbing in the least bit to your audience. If you know them as well as you should, then you know and use the outlet that will best reach them if a press release will not work.

    • cwilusz says:

      I agree with what your saying but ultimately were are employed by them. They are hiring the firm in which we work. They are paying us to send out these press releases even if they are lacking substance.

  2. hhoma says:

    I definitely believe that sending “vapor” to reporters can hurt a PR professional’s reputation. I have experienced this from the other side when I interned as a reporter at the Arizona Republic. Although my beat was to cover breaking (crime) news in Scottsdale, there were many times when I wrote stories outside of my beat due to slow traffic. For these stories, I went through my many, many emails of press releases sent from PR professionals. I learned very quickly that most of them have a giant mailing list, and they don’t take the time to consider who they are sending to. For example, I received press releases about events happening in cities other than Scottsdale (and the few other cities that the Scottsdale Republic wrote about), which made absolutely no sense. I soon caught on to the names of those who were sending me “vapor” and did not even take the time to read anything from them again.

    It is crucial to know your audience and know the history of the paper that you are sending press releases to. I often wrote about topics that seniors would be interested in, as senior readers are popular in Scottsdale. Some PR professionals noticed the articles I had written for the paper and, and they sent press releases and story pitches about other senior activities, events and home care, which led to a number of follow up stories and ultimately worked out in their favor.

    • cwilusz says:

      I agree 100%.. todays PR professionals have HUGE mailing lists and will send out press releases to reporters that are not even relevant. Obviously you want to get coverage for you client but you need to think long term. You want to establish yourself as credible with reporters and build good media relations. I believe that is more important for your career then wasting time to send out “vapor”

  3. hmick says:

    I agree with the above comments. I think that when sending out any type of release to the media, they want to be able to trust that what you are sending them is “newsworthy.” The last thing I would want to do is send out multiple “vapor” messages and get the reputation that I don’t have any reputable material. What would happen eventually is that the media that I contact would just delete any releases sent from me and not give even my most newsworthy pitches a chance.

  4. cwilusz says:

    Exactly, and I think this is why as professionals we should avoid sending “vapor”. When the time comes along when you actually have substantial information to release nobody is going to take you seriously because you already blackballed yourself with most reporters.

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  6. alevy says:

    With the expanding public relations industry, I think it is important to make sure any press release or media kit is newsworthy and profoundly targeted to the audience you wish to reach. If each press release is specific and acknowledges something the media outlet is correlated with, then you will establish an immediate credible relationship and hopefully gain the publicity needed to spread the word about your client, event etc.. I think it is also vital to know something about the history of news/media outlets you are sending the information to in order to customize the content that will attract the media organizations and once again, help raise awareness for press releases.

    If you constantly send out “vapor” material/messages, news outlets and other professionals will most likely not even respond or disregard the material all together, which in turn could leave you without any credible contacts and relationships and not able to represent your client to the fullest potential.

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