5 Common Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Looking for PR

Baseball_glove“If you want PR, think like a reporter.”

It’s something many entrepreneurs and business marketers who want publicity must learn. But what does it mean? How do reporters think? And why do you need to be privy to this information?

You can’t effectively pitch stories to anyone in traditional or social media if you don’t understand how their minds operate.

How do journalists, bloggers and podcasters decide what is newsworthy and what gets tossed?

I was a news reporter. Please, allow me to share these five common rookie mistakes small business owners should avoid when looking for PR and publicity:

Rookie Mistake #1. I can sell my products and services with an article, post or interview. It’s all about me! When pitching a self-serving story that fails to connect with a specific audience, you’re missing an opportunity to become a trusted and credible resource.

If you want to sell something, pay for an ad and call the sales department.

An article or interview that conveys a compelling story that’s relevant and timely to an audience will build your credibility and visibility. It will likely take time, but it could bring new clients.

When you set aside the mindset “it’s all about me” and flip your pitch to help a targeted demographic solve their challenge (it’s all about them), reporters will be more likely to consider your pitch.

[RELATED: ENTREPRENEURS, GET FREE ACCESS TO TONS OF VALUABLE PR RESOURCES RIGHT NOW!]  

Rookie Mistake #2. Reporters and bloggers will jump at the chance to read my pitch and will follow-up so they can learn all about my business. Most people working in busy newsrooms think of PR pitches as “interruptions.” Journalists are typically overworked, underpaid and…well, yes…grumpy. It’s an incredibly competitive field. They are besieged with dozens of pitches that are irrelevant.

It’s our job as marketers to communicate a concise and meaningful message, especially in the subject line and headline. We must pique their interest and curiosity with just a few words, so they will continue reading.

If you can capture the essence of your story in a punchy subject line, a reporter is more apt to follow-up.

Rookie Mistake #3. Any reporter will do. When crafting your email pitch or press release, keep the reporter’s audience, demographic and “beat” front of mind.

To prepare, peruse an archive of the writer’s last 20 stories or posts. Read their bio page to see which specialty area they cover. For example, don’t send an environmental reporter a pitch about back-to-school vaccinations. It’s unlikely they will send it to the correct person.

Do your homework and show them you respect their time and understand their target audience.

Rookie Mistake #4. My story is relevant to the public. A good reporter will ask the question, “What’s new here? Has something happened that we haven’t covered yet?” Look for new statistics, updates or a fresh angle.

Within the word “news” is the word “new.” Regurgitating old information will diminish your credibility. Show reporters why your pitch is relevant to their readers or listeners. Most decision-makers will shoot down your ideas in a split second. Can you bounce back four or five times to show them why they should listen to your pitch?

Rookie Mistake #5.  My writing doesn’t matter; they’ll fix it.  You must be able to write and communicate your pitch with clarity. This shows the reader (reporter or blogger) that you have a thorough understanding of your pitch and how it relates to them.

Journalists won’t read beyond the first few words to decipher your pitch. It will quickly be deleted. Be sure the sentence that captures the essence of your pitch is at the top. If it’s buried seven lines down, the journalist will never see it.

Take time to make the reporter or blogger feel special. Do your homework, know what they cover and what they’ve written about in the past.

If you’re interested in learning how to generate compelling content in your own business, I’ve created a free cheat sheet to help you with this: “4 Ways for Entrepreneurs to Create Content.”

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