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Honesty before beauty: Pitching more than one contact at the same outlet

Elle’s beauty & fitness director shares insights about pitching multiple contacts at the same time

Emily Dougherty, beauty and fitness director at Elle, is a very busy woman. However, she’s “always happy to help streamline the pitching process” – even on the go from her Blackberry. “A well-researched, intelligent, straight-forward pitch on something that is newsworthy is always a pleasure to receive.”

But what can change that perception? “It’s good for us to know who on the team has received a pitch,” Emily wrote. When asked if she ever checks with her coworkers to see if they received the same email, she replied, “Only when I can’t tell who has been cc:ed.”

When my fellow blogger Jay Krall and I started writing for CisionBlog, we were also added to Cision’s media database as bloggers. After a few weeks of being listed, I started to receive pitches for the blog from media relations professionals. While almost all of the pitches have been on-topic, well-written and relevent, almost ALL (I would estimate 90%) of the pitches that I received were also sent to Jay.

As a former PR professional, I understand that most of the time it is neccessary to pitch multiple journalists with the same story. However, I was surprised that no one cc:ed both of us on a pitch saying, “I thought you might both be interested in this idea.” Instead, we were each blind copied and only realized that we got the same pitch after comparing notes.

So is this the right way to pitch multiple contacts at the same outlet? It seems to be common practice, so I decided to investigate.

I found dozens and dozens of profiles listed in Cision’s media database that discussed this very topic.

“Do not send multiple press releases to several staff members and have different editors pursuing the same pitch; it is a waste of their time,” says an editor at a top food magazine.

An Associated Press editor’s profile reads, “If the story has more than one angle to send it to the assignment or supervising editor to avoid duplicating research efforts. Do not contact multiple reporters with the same story.”

So I started thinking – what about top outlets where there are multiple contacts who cover the same topic? Which brings me to my email exchange with Emily at Elle. Here are some of her answers on how to pitch one or more media contacts at Elle‘s beauty and fitness department:

Q: Do you accept pitches directed to more than one person in your department?

A: I personally don’t mind if someone wants to send everyone in the beauty/fitness department the same press release, as long as the press release relates to beauty/fitness.  It would be great if publicists could avoid using blind cc when emailing the Elle Beauty and Fitness department; instead, let us see who else in the department and/or at our magazine received the email, so we can avoid cluttering up each other’s inboxes by forwarding emails that we’ve all received.

Q: Are you inclined to ignore pitches/releases sent to multiple people in your office?

A: No – I never ignore a pitch/release that is related to my market. As far as if the pitch is sent to multiple people in my office: it doesn’t bother me at all, and I actually prefer that publicists reach out to all of the appropriate people that could benefit from a pitch. This doesn’t mean that they should cc the entire staff of the magazine – that’s not cool – it makes it look as if the publicist doesn’t know their product or concept well enough to pitch it to the appropriate editors.  But, as I mentioned above, its great to see the appropriate people at Elle cc:ed on the right subject matter.

So, the moral of the story seems to be that most journalists don’t mind if you contact more than one person at their outlet – just make sure you let them know who you’ve contacted. As is always best practice in media relations, be honest, transparent and forthcoming and the media will be likely to respond in kind.

About Heidi Sullivan

One of PRWeek’s 40 under 40 in 2012, Heidi Sullivan is Senior Vice President of Digital Content for Cision and a self-proclaimed social media metrics nerd. She leads the company’s digital and broadcast content teams, the global research team for Cision’s media database, Cision’s social media community team and the company’s content marketing strategy. You can find her on Twitter @hksully.

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