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10 Common Mistakes Businesses Make When Pitching to Journalists (And How to Avoid Them)

July 4, 2024
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Are you wanting to increase your influence with the media and see your business in the headlines but just can’t seem to get the attention of the journalists?

It’s can be a tough game out there if you’re only new to dipping your toe into the media, but fear not! We’ve got the inside scoop on the common mistakes that could be holding you back from getting the media coverage you deserve. 

From reaching out to the wrong journalists to sending out bland, one-size-fits-all pitches (which we refer to as the ‘spray and pray’ approach), there are plenty of pitfalls to avoid. 

But don’t worry – we’re here to help you navigate the choppy waters of media pitching and increase your chances of success. 

So, ready to up your media game and avoid the common rookie errors? Let’s dive in and turn your media dreams into reality! 

Mistake 1: Not Pitching to the Right Person 

When you’re reaching out to the media, it’s super important to hit the bullseye and pitch your story to the right journalist.Targeting the wrong journalist and audience can render your pitch ineffective – research reveals that 75% of the pitches journos get are irrelevant to them…. And no one wants to be irrelevant (or end up in the trash). It’s essential to tailor your message to the right journalist to maximize its impact. Before you hit send on those emails…

well in fact, before you even craft your pitch – , take some time to research which journalists cover topics relevant to your area of expertise and the issue you are pitching (remember – you’re not pitching your business, you’re pitching the issue). This will ensure your pitch reaches the right journalist and increase its chance of getting noticed. 

Look for journalists who write about your industry or niche. You want someone who’s penned articles on topics similar to your pitch. Don’t stress, though! There are a number of free resources available to help you identify relevant journalists for your story. Platforms like Sourcebottle (which is a bit like a dating site for journos and experts like you) provide a way to connect journalists with sources like yourself. Twice a day, Sourcebottle sends an email which lists the stories they are currently working on and the experts they are seeking. If you have expertise in what they are looking for – BAM – you can respond on the platform, and yoru response is sent directly to the journo. If they like what you have to say, YOU become the expert voice in their article/on their program. 

By targeting the right journo, you’re stacking the odds in your favour to score some sweet media coverage. So, put in a bit of sweat equity, do your research, and tailor your pitch to the right person – it’ll be worth it. 

Mistake 2: Generic or Sales-y Pitches 

So, you’ve finally found the perfect journalist to pitch your story to – awesome job! But wait, before you hit send, let’s talk about crafting a pitch that will make them go, ‘Wow, I need to know more about this!’ 

Forget about those boring, sales-y pitches that end up in the digital trash bin. Journalists aren’t looking for a snooze-fest sales brochure or a one-size-fits-all press release. They want a juicy story that will captivate their readers. To nail your pitch, dive into the publications you’re targeting. What kind of stories do they cover? What’s their vibe, style, and topics of interest? Get cosy with their content so you can tailor your pitch to match their taste buds. It’s all about serving up a story that hits the spot, not just pushing your brand. 

This is one of the biggest mistakes newbies make: They pitch to the journos like they would pitch to their customers and nothing will have you fail faster. They want issues based pitches, not a pitch about your product/service. It’s NOT the journos job to place an ad for your business. They want news their readers/viewers/listeners can use. So drop the sales pitch, and think strategically about the issues you cover/solve. 

Picture this: You stumble upon a magazine that loves quirky stories about animals wearing sunglasses (yes, that’s a thing). Instead of pitching your latest product launch, why not spin a tale about a cool cat rocking shades at a beach party? See the difference? It’s all about speaking their language and serving up a story that fits like a glove. AND… if you can tie this pitch in with a pet-related cause day – even better! 

So, do your homework, get creative, and whip up a pitch that’s impossible to resist. Remember, it’s not about tooting your own horn – it’s about serving up a story that’s too good to pass up.

Happy pitching! 

Mistake 3: Lack of Personalisation 

Getting a journalist’s attention is like catching a shooting star – you’ve gotta be spot-on with your approach. Sending out a generic pitch is a one-way ticket to the land of ignored emails. You gotta make it personal to shine bright like a diamond. 

Instead of a boring ol’ ‘Dear Sir/Madam,’ use their name to show you’ve done your homework and actually care. And hey, double-check those names and spellings – typos scream ‘I didn’t bother to check!’ 

Avoid those cookie-cutter phrases or templates that scream ‘copy-paste job.’ Personalise your pitch to make the journalist go, ‘Hmm, tell me more!’ Do the legwork, research, and craft a pitch that speaks straight to the journalist and their peeps. Trust me, it’s totally worth the extra effort. 

Mistake 4: Relying Too Heavily on Press Releases 

Alright, so you’ve nailed down how to make your pitch personal, but let’s shake things up a bit and move away from just relying on the ol’ press release. 

Press releases can be a valuable foundation, but they might get lost in the noise of competing stories. To truly grab a journalist’s attention, consider adding a personal touch that makes your pitch stand out from the crowd. 

Instead of simply sending out a generic press release, consider crafting a personalised email introduction for each journalist you contact. Briefly highlight a key aspect of your story and explain how it aligns with their audience’s interests. This personalised approach will make your pitch more relevant and increase its chances of getting noticed. 

This combined approach significantly increases your visibility and maximizes your chances of securing media coverage. 

By blending a snazzy press release with a custom email, you’re more likely to get a journalist doing a happy dance and keen to share your story. 

Mistake 5: Pitches That Are Too Long 

When you’re putting together a pitch, you want to keep it short and sweet. Long, meandering messages can be a total turnoff for busy journalists who are already swamped with emails. 

So, get straight to the point and share your main message quickly. We call this not burying the lead. Keep it simple, clear, and free of fancy jargon. Focus on the most important stuff and skip the fluff.

Mistake 6: Lack of Research 

So, you’ve got this killer pitch ready to go, but hold up a second! Have you checked out the journo you’re pitching to? It’s super important to do your homework on them before hitting send. 

Get this – read their last five pieces to suss out their vibe and what topics they dig. This way, you can customise your pitch to match their interests. Oh, and don’t forget to peek at the dates of their recent articles to make sure they’re still in the game and not on a break. 

By doing your research, you’re showing the journo that you know what they cover and you’re pitching something that potentially ‘fits’. This boosts your chances of them taking your pitch seriously. 

Mistake 7: Not Offering Anything of Value 

So, picture this: journalists get bombarded with heaps of pitches every day. But here’s the kicker – they’re only keen on the ones that bring something super cool and valuable to the table for their readers. When you step up to the plate, be sure to show them what they’ll get out of it. 

So, what can you offer to make your story stand out amongst the vanilla pitches of everyone else? 

Here are a few ideas to kickstart your creative juices: 

1. Exclusive info: Equip your pitch with unique data, research, or insights that journalists can’t find elsewhere. Be the first to share a groundbreaking statistic or a fresh perspective – it’s like having the inside scoop on a highly anticipated restaurant opening before anyone else. Even if the research isn’t yours, as an expert, you can make a comment on it.. Just be sure to acknowledge where the research has come from. 

2. Expert goss: Score some quotes or interviews with big shots in your field. If you’re able to offer what we call a ‘second voice’ and this voice is a heavy-hitter in your industry, it shows you’re connected and ‘up to the minute’ of what’s happening in your industry. 

3. Fresh takes: Serve up a new angle on a hot topic or a bold opinion that gets people chatting. Think ‘water-cooler’ type conversations and reactions. It’s like adding Vegemite to a classic dish – love it or hate it, it gets reactions. 

Mistake 8: Pitching at the Wrong Time 

Getting the timing right for your pitch is super important! You don’t want it to flop like a sad soufflé, right? Imagine your pitch getting lost in a journalist’s crazy schedule—it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack! 

Each media has its own rhythm and what days are best for them to receive pitches. For example, Fridays are a great day to pitch to weekday breakfast TV as they’ve basically

finished for the week and are starting to plan for the following week. Weekend breakfast TV however is too busy on a Friday to consider looking at your pitch – so Wednesdays are usually their ‘day 1’ of the week and a great day to pitch to them. So understanding the rhythm of your target media is important and this is also part of your prep and homework. 

After you hit send on your pitch, the follow up is important – but again, the timing of your follow up is going to be determined by the media outlet. If it’s a daily program or publication, following up that afternoon or the next day might be OK. But if it’s a monthly publication, you can perhaps leave it a week or so before following up. Again, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ here – so…. And you know what i’m going to say…. Homework and prep is key. 

Mistake 9: Sending Generic Follow-ups 

Your follow-up emails can really make all the difference in whether a journalist goes for your story! But if you send out those same ol’ boring, generic messages, they might just hit the snooze button on your pitch. You want to show them that you’re not just another copy-paste email in their inbox. 

Here’s how to jazz up your follow-ups: 

1. Pitch a strong summary from the get-go: This means condensing your pitch or media release into one sentence to grab their attention – and also be sure to attach the original media release/pitch to that email too. 

2. Give them the goods: Share compelling details, exclusive insights, or unexpected angles that will grab the journalist’s attention and make them think, ‘This is a story my audience needs to hear!’ 

Mistake 10: Giving Up Too Soon 

So, you’ve sent out your pitch to a journalist, and now you’re sitting there twiddling your thumbs, waiting for a response. It can be a total bummer if you don’t hear back right away, but don’t throw in the towel too soon! The journalist might just be swamped with work, and your pitch could have just slipped through the cracks in their inbox. 

Remember, persistence is key when it comes to pitching to these busy bees. 

Why not try following up with a friendly and personalised email or even giving them a quick call to catch their attention? If that still doesn’t do the trick, don’t get disheartened! Take a step back, learn from the experience, and tweak your approach for your next pitch. Every ‘no’ you receive is just one step closer to a big, fat ‘yes’! 

Keep at it, and your chances of scoring some sweet free media coverage will go through the roof with persistence and that all important preparation.

So, there you have it! Don’t let a little silence get you down. Keep your chin up, keep tweaking, and keep those pitches coming. Who knows, your next pitch might just be the one that lands you that killer media coverage you’ve been dreaming of. 

Conclusion 

You’ve made it this far, and now you know the common mistakes to avoid when pitching to journalists. 

By targeting the right journalists, crafting personalised and engaging pitches, and following up persistently (without becoming a stalker), you’ll increase your chances of securing free media coverage. 

Remember to keep your pitches concise, valuable, and timely. Don’t rely solely on press releases, and avoid generic follow-ups. 

With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to getting your business the media attention it deserves. 

The Meet the Press MasterClass program is here to guide you through this process, helping you become a master at pitching to journalists and getting your story heard.


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