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Your Utility and Fine-tuning Your Public Relations Effort

In my day job as a newspaper editor, I’ve received the following email pitches in the last week or two from public relations practitioners:

● For an event occurring in February

● For an event happening within the next 24 hours

● For an event occurring in another state

● For an event occurring in another country

● For a topic we had already covered

● For a topic that literally had no connection to our target audience

What do these pitches all have in common? They’re all terrible. Not only are they a waste of my time, they reflect badly on the PR practitioner. The next time they pitch something – whether it’s applicable or not -- I’m going to be predisposed to believing its worthless. It’s kind of the PR version of the boy who cried wolf.

Let’s look at each of these pitches and see what can be learned from them.

An event occurring in February may as well be taking place in 2025. Most publications focus on the here and now. Granted, many media outlets maintain “tickler” files listing upcoming events, but pitching something so far in advance isn’t going to help get you coverage.

The same is true for pitching something that’s coming up right away. Note that I am not talking about breaking news, but events that have been planned for a long time. If you wait too long to tell the media, they’re likely to have all reporters already booked at other events.

As for events occurring in other states or even countries – coverage just isn’t going to happen, especially with today’s small newsrooms and even smaller budgets.

When it comes to pitching ideas, make sure to check that the outlet hasn’t already covered the topic in recent days. If you try to pitch something that’s already been covered, it’ll make you look foolish because it’ll be clear you aren’t keeping up with the publication.

Finally, know your market. It’s OK to be aggressive and pitch a lot of different outlets, but be realistic. Food & Wine isn’t going to care about the new hydroelectric plant you’re building. That’s an outrageous example, but I’ve been pitched some fairly ridiculous things over the years, so crazy stuff does happen.

The common denominator in all of these examples is a lack of common sense. When it comes to being an effective PR practitioner, put yourself in a journalist’s shoes and think about how you’d like to be pitched.

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