THE SPIN CYCLE — Pitching pitfalls that drive journalists crazy
by Todd Smith
Published: August 15,2014
How well do us PR practitioners and journalists get along? Sometimes it’s easy to avoid common mistakes that will prevent your brand from getting covered and possibly ruin your relationship with the journalist – and who better than journalists themselves to give us tips?
With the help of Martin Bryant, editor-in-chief at The Next Web, Media Bistro, recently gathered a list of actions that drive journalists crazy. Let’s take a look at the common mistakes that PR pros must avoid in peddling the news.
1. Never going to give up – Persistence is a virtue , but you must also understand when to accept a “no.” Among the most common complaints encountered: the follow-up call right after an e-mail. Social Media outreach can also be annoying, so think twice before friending a journalist on Facebook or mentioning him on Twitter right after the pitch. Simultaneously sending a release to both personal and professional e-mail addresses can also be seen as an invasion. Send only to business addresses.
Journalists also mention that any effort to change/complain about editorial decisions is seen as obnoxious and may put those crucial relationships at risk.
2. Lack of personalization – Persistence is not the only sign of bad PR: lack of effort and mass distribution can be even worse. Examples – endless CC lists and BCCs that make it look like the contacts emailed themselves. Of course, an email starting with “dear media outlet” doesn’t stand much of a chance, and could be destined for the trash bin. Make sure to get the name right.
3. Get to the point – Buzzwords won’t get you far. “Disruptive,” “revolutionary,” “market-leading,” etc. are meaningless jargon phrases. Think about audiences, not journalists – and avoid “superlative-stuffing.”
A good pitch is always straight to the point: many journalists complain about e-mails that require readers to scroll down (and about e-mails with no links). Stick to the facts, keep it short and add links to your online news release and other supporting material.
4. Contentious issues – The majority of journalists agree on the points discussed before, but some individual preferences do divide them.
Should you present pure facts, as in “Hi, here we are and this is what we do,” or should you suggest a story, an angle, a spin for the journalist to consider? Opinions diverge on this issue. Sometimes it’s good to pitch a story months before the big event hits, while a weeklong embargo is already too much in other cases. The Spin Cycle says months are too far in advance and weeks are a better strategy for pitching stories.
Should you include mentions/links from other blogs, or should you only pitch exclusives? There’s no single answer: journalists are people, too, and their preferences obviously vary.
In the end, honesty, common sense and cultivating long-lasting relationships with journalists will help you avoid these pitfalls in almost every case.
Instagram Marketing Quickly
Catching-Up To Facebook
How close is Instagram to Facebook when it comes to brand activity? Probably closer than you think.
Social media shop Shareablee pulled the following numbers, which illustrate that marketers – while most of them cannot run ads yet on Instagram – are highly active on the social-mobile phone app.
The intriguing stats below are for United States brand pages during the second quarter. Keep in mind that Facebook went live in 2004, and Instagram hasn’t been around for four years yet.
» Facebook garnered 2.5 million brand posts, a year-over-year growth of 22 percent.
» Instagram had 493,000 of such posts, a 49 percent year-over-year jump.
» Facebook accrued 6 billion actions (likes, comments or shares).
» Instagram totaled 3.4 billion actions (likes, comments).
» Facebook had 2,396 actions per post.
» Instagram racked up 6,932 actions per post.
There is a trio of obvious takeaways from the findings.
First, Instagram received 56 percent as many total actions on the platform as Facebook during Q2. And, brand activity is growing much faster on Instagram than Facebook – which isn’t necessarily surprising since the former is much newer to the marketing world than the latter. But what should raise eyebrows is that Instagram is achieving three times the engagement per post when compared to Facebook.
4 Social Media Mistakes PR People Should Avoid
1. Don’t talk badly about work or your employer. We all have bad days. PR life – be it as an agency executive or an in-house practitioner – can be slightly aggravating. In a moment of angst and client misunderstanding, some PR pros tweet without thinking. The problem: if you are doing your job properly, journalists follow you and your team may follow you – and an unfortunate note can cause people to very quickly unfollow you, your agency and even your clients. Just walk away and live to tweet and post another day.
2. Don’t forget your boundaries. Facebook has become the storehouse for everyone’s ego. People go there and share, share, share. There’s no thought, just the overflow of emotion when seeing a cute dog or a grumpy cat. Then, the boundaries erode, you enjoy seeing more of yourself online, and you really begin over sharing. Salty language, general angst, political commentary, untoward remarks about your fellow employees – these are the signs it’s out of hand. Remember that these things are public (and clients/reporter friends may well be in the general vicinity).
3. Don’t be lazy. Social media platforms, such as Hootsuite and Buffer, were created to help you keep it real on social media and keep it consistent with timed content. There’s only one very important thing to remember: Keep in mind what happens during the day. For example, tweeting a sports journalist’s thoughts about why Lebron James should stay with Miami right before the news of his move to Cleveland breaks. Scheduling is great, but you’ll need to stay awake for real-time content.
4. Don’t be “that guy or gal.” If you believe your social media handles’ sole purpose is to plug, shill, and shamelessly promote your PR skills, your name-dropping lifestyle, and your clients’ brands, you would be wrong. Don’t commit social media suicide. Make it work for you by working with others on it. Teamwork is the objective!
Golden Mic | James Brady Set the Gold Standard For Press Secretary
The late James Brady, the former White House press secretary who was shot in the head during the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan and who went on to become an unwavering gun-control advocate, truly set the gold standard for the role of White House press secretary. Brady, who was press secretary for the first two months of the Reagan administration, is remembered by colleagues and friends as a skilled and evenhanded arbiter between the press and the administration. “He really set the gold standard for being press secretary,” said Ken Duberstein, a former Reagan chief of staff who at the time was the president’s congressional liaison. “Open, honest, straight, but with humor, with dignity, with grace.
A dozen of his press secretary predecessors issued a rare joint statement honoring the life of Brady: “Jim Brady defined the role of the modern White House Press Secretary.” Brady persevered, and in the face of violent adversity refused to walk away from the mic.
Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!
» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him @spinsurgeon.
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