“Dear PR people”: using tech to become pitch perfect

Posted on: 2016-02-09 in How To

Are you annoying journalists? Bullhorn's Peter Linas says the right tech can have them singing your praises. 


By Peter Linas, International Managing Director, Bullhorn

If you work in PR, unfortunately journalists are predisposed to dislike you. You’re probably aware of this already; if not, well…sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

It’s understandable to feel a little resentful about this: without PR professionals, journalists would have to work much harder for stories. Nobody goes out of their way to piss off a publication; sure, you’re representing a client, but you wouldn’t have gotten into this industry if you didn’t genuinely enjoy connecting with people.

That said, the overarching priority when pitching a reporter shouldn’t be crafting an attention-grabbing subject line or a compelling narrative as much as making sure they know you aren’t one of the bad PRs.

There are many reasons for this, but doing a simple Google or Twitter search for the term “Dear PR people” is illustrative.  

Those are just a few examples from the last couple of months or so; there are many more.

The worst part is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Using technology – and a little common sense – you can overcome this negative perception and have journalists (figuratively) eating out of the palm of your hand. How?

1.    Avoid double pitching

In many agencies, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. When a team has multiple account executives and managers working with a single client, they’ll often end up “double pitching” a journalist. Journalists don’t generally like this. It’s also tremendously inefficient for your company.

Most of the time, you can attribute this problem to simple lack of visibility. PRs don’t know who’s doing what, and if their responsibilities overlap, this sort of thing is bound to happen. The right software can help you avoid this issue entirely.

Seek out platforms that enable you to see what everyone in the agency is up to at any given time: you should be able to check the progress of pitches and campaigns across the entire team, and keep an eye on who’s dealing with which reporter or influencer. It should also be possible to develop and collaborate on best practices that the entire team can work from.

2.    Communicate more efficiently

Receiving a pitch twice can be frustrating for journalists, but receiving a pitch that has almost no relationship to what they write about is even worse. “Spray and pray” PR is deeply flawed: just because you can send something to every reporter within a 20,000 mile radius doesn’t mean you should.

A good CRM (customer relationship management) system will be able to help agencies target their pitches more effectively. Reporters who are disinterested in or hostile to a particular angle will be filtered out. Phase-by-phase correspondence can be easily tracked through email integration: you’ll always know where you’re at with a particular contact and what you’ve already covered. This is good for productivity, and it also means that journalists will generally like you more because you’re not wasting their time.

3.    Forge stronger (and longer) relationships

When you interact with a contact over a long period of time, you develop a more sophisticated idea of how to communicate with them. Maybe the business editor at City AM only likes to be pitched between 9-11am, so nothing interferes with lunch or deadlines. A senior editor may have responded well to prior pitches – but only when they come from a particular staff member. However the relationship develops, you’ll want to know about it; if you don’t, you could alienate key points of contact, and possibly entire publications.

Certain technology makes it easier to manage your interactions with journalists and place them in a larger pattern over time. This will give you a solid idea of how to take future action. If one particular account manager has established strong rapport with a reporter, the technology will advise that that employee handles the relationship going forward. If an editor’s preferences indicate that they respond better when contacted via phone, email, text, WhatsApp, or carrier pigeon, you’ll be able to get your next conversation off to an excellent start – and spark several more down the line.

Of course, it’s worth understanding that technology isn’t supposed to be a crutch. If you’re a PR, software can certainly make life easier, but relationships can’t be automated; nobody feels very important when they’re greeted with “Hi %%Firstname%%”, and it won’t magically make a flawed or boring pitch worth a journalist’s time.

Instead, use it to submit thoughtful, relevant story ideas to writers and editors who cover the subject matter and build strong relationships with them. They probably won’t say “Dear PR people: THANK YOU” – that is, alas, not how they roll – but you’ll have a much better chance of getting your client featured in the article.

UK Agency Awards Winner 2016

About this blog

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 was founded by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, who runs video production and corporate animation agency TopLine Film and digital PR and SEO agency  TopLine Comms. The B2B PR Blog takes contributions from sensible industry folk with something interesting to say.


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