Three Strikes and You Could Be Out

Original content helps a company accomplish many things—ranking online, credibility with current and potential customers, respect among peers and competitors, to name a few. But what if your PR firm pitches you to the wrong media outlet, accidentally uses your competitor’s name in their messaging, and is pushy in getting a response?  This is not an abstract idea of what a poorly prepared PR agency’s representative might do; it’s from an email an editor received recently. With these three strikes against it, this firm could be out, along with their client.

Publisher, editors, and other media professionals have limited time to read a pitch from a PR company and decide whether or not to respond. Is your company’s PR firm representing you well, or are you striking out and don’t even know it?

Three simple lessons can be learned from this PR firm’s embarrassing approach.

1. Know the outlet you are contacting. Make sure your PR firm does their research before they approach the media to pitch an expert interview or contributed content. Approaching a life insurance publication with an auto insurance idea tells the recipient to trash that person’s correspondence. Most magazines will have a media kit or editorial calendar available. Your PR company should find out who their audience is and if they do interviews or generally use contributed content. Wasting the media’s time gets you put on the “ignore them” list (putting it kindly). Editors know who their go-to people are in the industry. Make sure your PR company is getting you on that list instead.

2. Don’t be pushy. Once an idea is pitched, recipients should be given time to respond. Hounding them to respond in less than 24 hours does not prove tenacity; it proves arrogance or naiveté and a complete lack of understanding regarding deadlines. For example, contacting a monthly publication near the end of the month means you’ve possibly caught them right on deadline. Their priority is to get to press, not to help an account representative get media coverage for their client. Make sure your PR company is giving contacts a moment to breath.

3. Do the homework. Pitching content to a media outlet in an email with typos, bad grammar, or worse, use of the competitor’s name instead of yours [Yes, this happens all too often. Can you say cut and paste?] sends a big signal that your pitch needs to end up in the trash. If you think an editor isn’t scrutinizing the pitch, you’re dead wrong.

Many PR firms use their entry-level staff to bombard all possible targets with email pitches. Unfortunately for their clients, the recipients can tell and discount them quickly. What a waste. If email isn’t properly crafted (and proofed) specifically to address its target, recipients end up in a position where they must educate the sender about their audience and goals. This practice also sends the message that, once content is received, it will likely require a lot of work. This will place your company at the bottom of the list or in the trash. Your best should be presented at all times. No one should have to do the work for you, and your targets simply don’t have the time to pick up the slack.

When your PR agency is pitching you to the media, do they do their research? Is your product, service, or expert fitting for the outlet? Or are they simply throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something will stick? As one editor put it, “If I had to guess, I would say that 90 percent of the time, I receive solicitations from firms that know nothing about my organization, use bad grammar and punctuation, or pester me for a response. I’ve gotten to know the firms that employ due diligence and those that do not.”

It’s really quite simple: Find a PR firm that knows how to research the best target for your company’s expertise, product, or service; pays attention to detail; and knows how to communicate with the media so that your company is seen as the go-to expert. No firm is perfect, but overall attention to detail and pursuit of excellence should be a priority.

At Liquid Line, we know PR, and we know the media industry. Contact us today to see what we can do to get your communications flowing.

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