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Journalists dish on their pitching pet peeves

Although the role of the story pitch is necessary in the world of public relations and journalism, there is an art to getting it right. Journalists overwhelmed by deadlines, emails and the demands of tighter newsrooms know what they want from press inquiries, and how they want to receive information. inVocus spoke with current and former journalists about their biggest pet peeves when it comes to the pitch, and there were plenty of complaints:

Menachem Wecker, education reporter at U.S. News & World Report/freelance writer at the Houston Chronicle

“If someone ever tracks down a reporter who prefers phone pitches to emails, it’d be worth creating a low-budget film documenting that person’s biography. (Perhaps she or he is based in a very small town somewhere, with poor Internet access? Or in a different century?) I happen to prefer Twitter, Google+, or Facebook pitches to email ones (my social media ‘boxes’ are less clogged than my email), and I never understand why spokespeople in training are taught it’s a good idea to send an email pitch and then follow up by phone immediately thereafter.”

“When someone sends a release, and I express interest, and then I’m told that the source isn’t available, or the person who sent the release is missing in action, that’s pretty frustrating.”

Marissa Hermanson, editor in chief of Breathe Magazine

“Jargon: Just use plain ol’ English in press releases and pitches, and editors are more apt to respond.

Continuous calling: Editors will be in touch if interested. It’s a turn off when PR pros call and leave multiple messages.

Follow-ups via email: If an editor doesn’t respond to a press release or pitch, they aren’t interested in the idea. No need to follow up.

Pitching multiple angles: If an editor isn’t receptive to an idea, there is no need to keep pitching other angles. If the subject matter doesn’t fit the publication, then changing the angle isn’t going to help.

Blind pitches: Be sure to know the publication’s readership, subject matter and distribution area. We get PR people pitching us who don’t realize where we are or what we cover.

To whom it may concern: Know who to send the press release to and how to spell their name.

Sending ‘freebies:’ Never pitch by sending along product samples and expecting coverage.”

Keith Yaskin, former investigative TV reporter, and current president at The Flip Side Communications

“I was a TV reporter for 17 years before recently leaving to start my own company. I didn’t like pitches that were 33 paragraphs plus attachments, included books I would never read. (Co-workers and I lined up the books on a wooden strip dividing our cubicles. We created a library of unusually titled books none of us opened. We simply laughed at them.) [Or] didn’t consider the type of reporter I was. Someone once pitched me a fashion story in LA. I was an investigative reporter in Phoenix.”

Doris Jeanette, radio show host, head mentor and teacher at center for New Psychology

“I am very annoyed when people assume that I will love their book or product. Most of the time I do not. If this continues over time with follow-up phone calls and emails I ask to be taken off their list.”

Gina Roberts-Grey, freelance writer

“I’m one of the original HAROers, and came to HARO with Peter from the group’s former Facebook days. I’ve used HARO hundreds of times (literally!) and in general, have enjoyed wild success with finding great sources. But some related PR pet peeves that drive me (and other writers I know) up a wall and happen often, too often, include:

Following up by phone. Don’t assume we didn’t get the email, or that we’re going to respond within seconds of you hitting send.

Stay on topic. If I put that I’m not looking for exercises, don’t send me pitches for workout routines, trainers or, well, exercises.

Make sure your client is on board. Don’t reply to my HARO query with the world’s best expert or source who would ‘love’ to be included in my article, only to have me set up an interview or send you email questions only to find out that your wonderful client isn’t interested after all. Do your homework and make sure the person you’re pitching to writers really wants to talk to us.”

–Katrina M. Mendolera

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