The Don’ts When Emailing a Journalist
Welcome to Lesson 5!
Disclaimer first: I can’t pretend to know exactly how every journalist would like to receive information, but I can certainly give you tips to help you broadly when contacting.
This might seem like a bit of a Negative Nigel chapter, but these rules have always kept me in good check.
Don’t be over-friendly. You have not met this journalist before, you don’t need to bother with a “How are you doing today?” or “I hope you’re well”—they are not your friends. In the crudest terms, you are selling your business/idea to them, so think about how you feel when being cold called. A stranger asking about how you’re doing is aggravating, right?
Avoid groundhog days. Let’s say the journalist has written a feature on how to sleep better and you are a sleep consultant or a bed maker—now is NOT the time to say, “Hey, I just saw you wrote about this, so now I want to tell you about my thing.” This story is now old and has been covered. Think of a way to evolve the story and pitch that, or say nothing at all. They don’t want to write the same article twice, and once they have covered a subject, you need to leave some time before they cover again.
Don’t spell their name wrong. This sounds simple, right? Well, you wouldn’t believe the number of journos I know who receive emails addressed to someone else.
Don’t say the wrong media name. Even worse, don’t pitch for Vogue magazine and say Cosmopolitan instead. It is the biggest turnoff. I’m pretty sure that a journalist might excuse a name typo, but if you can’t even get the name of where they work correct, they will probably stop reading right there.
Don’t BCC. This is the biggest crime against media known to man. For me, it should be a sackable PR offense. You must pitch an individual email to each journalist. If you want them to feature your title, you should have the respect to read their content and make sure that yours fits.
Don’t pitch without research. It’s essential to think before you pitch, because you don’t want to pitch a vegan menu to a meat lover or cocktails to someone who doesn’t drink.
Don’t send them a non-story. The most important part of a PR’s role is to tell a good story. Whether you are pitching to a news, column, or feature editor will depend on what sort of story you have. It is imperative that you send it to the right editorial desk, or it’s instantly a non-story.
On a basic level, when we talk about a news story, the clue is in the title: It is new. It must be something that has happened instantly—e.g., you have launched XX today. But more than this, you also need to think about what makes you unique: Could your story be applied to any other business? If so, you must identify what stands you out. Think about lines such as the biggest, the smallest, the world’s first—but it must be factual. “My company/product has launched” is not a story, but “I am the first person to create this product to disrupt XX marketing in XX way” is.
Put simply, a feature is a larger, more in-depth article in a newspaper or magazine. It typically will talk about a trend, which means you need a few examples. For instance, you might be pitching the idea of building a skate ramp in your office as part of an innovative office design feature, so you might need to help the journalist by suggesting a few other spaces that also fit that criterion, to show that there is a trend.
Tomorrow, we will be a bit friendlier and give you easy things that you definitely MUST do when emailing a journalist.
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