4 Don’ts of PR – Advice from Journalists

At SMACK! Media, we are a team of athletes and wellness enthusiasts, fueled by competition and driven to excel. Athletically, we know that upping our mileage or increasing the amount of time spent recovering often equates to more success. In Public Relations however, the correlation between pitching and media placements is not entirely direct. Communication today is easier than ever with email, text, and social media. PR professionals capitalize on these resources by sending more emails and directly messaging pitches to journalists via social media. As a result, the inboxes of writers and editors are ridiculously overflowing, forcing them to be less forgiving with the delete button, and causing them to roll their eyes when a PR rep tries to sneak work into their personal life by pitching through social media.

Our inspiration for this blog came from scrolling through writers’ and editors’ tweets that read something like this, “PSA: I have never written a Holiday Gift Guide and I never will. Please stop pitching this,” or “PR reps – please pay attention to spelling and grammar. Oh and make sure you have the correct name when addressing an email!”

We reached out to industry leading journalists for their best tips and suggestions on how PR reps can successfully secure editorial placements for a brand, person, or story.

Special Thanks: To all the writers and editors who contributed to this feature! This is the first of three posts for a series on this topic. We hope that publicists, entrepreneurs and agencies learn from this feedback and incorporate these Do’s and Don’ts into their strategy.

#1: Don’t send pitches that are irrelevant to the writer or publication; Do research.

Instead of trying to break the world record for most pitches sent in an hour, devote some time to researching a writer’s interest, area of expertise, and past stories. Jenessa Connor, a health and fitness writer for publications like Men’s Journal, Oxygen Magazine, and Shape, confirms that targeted pitching is key:

Get a good understanding of what each writer covers, as well as the type of story each outlet covers. Don’t pitch me something that’s not remotely close to what I write about. One PR person keeps sending me infographics on social media trends and telling me that it may be of interest to my readers (I primarily cover health and fitness!).”

The reality is that more pitches do not equal more placements, but more targeted pitches do. So before sending a pitch, make sure you do your homework and understand what topics are appropriate and important to a writer’s and publication’s audience.

#2: Don’t pitch via social media; Do pitch via email.

This was a common theme amongst all the responses we received. Kristin Canning, a “wellness-obsessed” writer for Health, Men’s Health Magazine, SELF and others, always prefers to receive pitches via email:

“Email! I try to keep all those things separate. Not that people can’t follow each other, but if I’m getting pitches via Instagram it feels like it’s infiltrating my personal life.”

The same way you don’t want your boss commenting on your Instagram, “Hey cool photo, but can you send me that report?” writers and editors don’t always want to mix their personal and work life.

#3: Don’t rely on spell check; Do write, read, and read again.

While a writer or editor won’t mark up your pitch with a red pen like your high school English teacher did, the rules of spelling and grammar still apply. Check for spelling typos, grammatical errors, and most importantly make sure you’re addressing the email to the right person. Lara McGlashan, Group Fitness Editor for Oxygen Magazine, Muscle & Performance Magazine, and more says:

“SPELLING AND GRAMMATICAL ERRORS are a HUUUUUUGGGGGEE no-no. Hello – we are EDITORS. Plus if you get my name and publication wrong, for instance if you call me “Pam from Shape” clearly you are not paying attention, and don’t care enough to make sure that your product is well-represented.”

 Yes, we have all prematurely hit send and seen an email fly off with a blatant mistake, but prioritizing proofreading could be the difference between a pitch being accepted vs. immediately deleted.

#4: Don’t waste time writing elaborate subject lines; Do send concise product descriptions and images.

Ever spend more time brainstorming a unique and catchy subject line vs. writing the full email? If you answered yes, then this tip is going to be a lifesaver. In most instances writers are happy with straightforward subjects lines. Leslie Goldman, women’s health writer, speaker and body image expert for outlets that include O, The Oprah Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Parents, Women’s Health Magazine, says:

“[Subject Line] Doesn’t matter to me, as long as it makes sense and isn’t silly. (“Tickle his pickle in honor of National Pickle Month. New results from national sex survey…”)”

We suggest sticking to a straightforward subject line like, “New Paleo Grass Fed Protein” or “Pro Athlete Picks for Recovery Tools.” Use this extra time to focus on the body of the email. Include product descriptions and embed images. When it comes to highlighting product specs and selecting images remember these 3 C’s: Concise, Creative, and Clear. Again, more words or images do not equal more placements.