There’s nothing more disappointing than spending an inordinate amount of time on something, only to have it fail. Even worse than having it fail, though, is not learning from the failure. If you’ve had a pitch fall flat in the past, what have you learned from it? Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

  1. The topic isn’t interesting. I’ve worked in the tech startup space for the past few years, and I’ve noticed what appears to be a very common problem: someone in the C-Suite wants to do a press release about a product release, a closed round of funding or a product update and, not matter how you “spin” it, it’s just not that interesting. If you have an existing relationship with a journalist or just happen to reach out at the exact right time, you may be able to sneak the announcement in to a larger story – but, chances are, you just need to come up with something better. Try tying your less interesting news to something journalists (and bloggers!) haven’t heard before. For example, if you hire a new high-profile data scientist, come up with a story around the data they’ve uncovered and sneak in the little tidbit about their recent move to your company.
  2. The content isn’t attention-grabbing. Once you’ve come up with an interesting topic, it’s important to present it in an interesting way. Nobody likes to read long paragraphs of text and, if nobody reads your pitch, nobody is going to write about it. So spruce it up with short paragraphs, bullet points, quotes, images, videos, infographics – whatever you can think of to grab your reader’s attention and make them want to share your story.
  3. You’re not targeting the right people. Technology has made it incredibly easy to take a “spray and pray” approach to pitching – PR pros have databases upon databases of journalists to spam reach out to with their stories, and can instantly send hundreds or thousands of emails with the click of a button. One of the big lessons I’ve learned from email marketing is that it’s all in the list. Taking the time to really hone in on your target audience can go a long way in getting a response – so think carefully about which publications and journalists would likely be interested in your story and start there. It may take a little more time upfront, but the payoff will be worth it.
  4. You’re not tailoring your pitch to the journalist. Building upon the previous point, carefully selecting your list allows you to research each journalist and what they’ve written in the past, so you can tailor your pitch specifically to them. Meltwater’s media database actually allows you to search for journalists by what they’ve written in the past, so you can reference related articles in your pitch and discuss how your story is relevant to their audience. Can we say, “winner, winner, chicken dinner?”
  5. You don’t have an existing relationship with the journalist. This isn’t absolutely crucial, but it can definitely be icing on the cake! Most of the time, you have some time to craft your pitch and build your list – why not start priming journalists early, as well? Once you’ve built your list, take a look at some of the articles they’ve written in the past and comment on them with insightful information or questions. Then, utilize social media to begin sharing their content and responding to their tweets. Building a relationship with your target audience before you actually need something from them will help you stand out and can be the difference between your story being published, or glossed over.

What else do you have to add to this list? Let me know with a comment!