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Three Reasons Why Your Pitch Gets Trashed
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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One of the rudimentary principles of public relations is that pitching is not a science, it's an art. However, being one of the most important things that we do for our lovely clients, it is crucial we learn to wield a delicate brush with precision. That said, you can imagine when I caught this article by Business Insider by Alyson Shontell, my attention was piqued. 

Long story short: We have a tech agency with a flack who doesn't quite grasp the aforementioned art. Nevertheless, said PR practitioner had a goal to secure interest from Ms. Shontell. The nubile professional was well on the way to getting the call with an appealing tech start-up and a nice nest egg of support. And then the reporter read the email: 

1. The sender. It's difficult to know every reporter you pitch; however, you should know about them. For instance, do you know how to spell his or her friggin' name? I hear that is a little important to reporters. Also, are you aware of their beat? I'm sure your tech start-up is an admirable company, but if you are pitching the health reporter or an intern, there may be a high chance that your email gets "filed" immediately. 

A thought might be that social media thingy. Check out your reporter on Twitter and mention a recent tweet. Locate — don't stalk — them on LinkedIn or Facebook. See something in common? Use it. Better yet, see a story he or she reported? Mention it. The average reporter gets more than 2,000 communications daily. The least you can do is make sure you have the right person before you make it 2,001. 

2. The subject. A couple of things here, if I may. If you ever BCC a cornucopia of reporters, you should be grounded from your Vocus or Cision database for at least six months. That says to the reporter, "Hey, um, you? Like I care about this subject, but here you go. Thanks. Whatevs. Meh." Another thing is, if you are the flack in your agency who believes filling your sheet of "Buzzword Bingo" is the most fulfilling thing in your day, might I suggest buying a cat? Keep your subject line intriguing and get rid of thoughts like, "How to develop synergy with healthcare people." Or something like that. 

3. The first sentence. Three words all flacks should fear exist in the first sentence of any email: "Bury the lede." (And yes, that's spelled correctly.) Are you sure you know what the most important part of what you are selling? And contrary to popular opinion, your client's name may not be that important to the reporter. Do you have a strong idea? Does that idea suggest a strong need for the reporter and his or her readers? Do you offer a different point of view rather than any list an editorial intern can locate on Wikipedia? Answer those questions and the lede may be in front of you. 

And as an aside, Ms. Shontell, I have several tech clients, I don't write crap pitches and um, you represent the "Syracutie" line well. Mazel Tov. Go Orange.

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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