PR people, want to pitch? Then read the papers

I’ve been pitched to for the magazine I edit over the last few days and the standard has been mixed. It’s worth looking at a couple of (anonymous of course) examples. In the interests of fairness I should say that about four were completely on target.

Here’s an article, what do you think?

I felt quite bad for the first. I’d sent out a request to PR contacts through the Response Source service, asking for a pitch on a particular subject and mentioned that I would need 1500 words. So the PR exec in question put together a pitch, said she could come out with the small business angle on behalf of her client and make it very practical.

My magazine, Intelligent Sourcing, doesn’t cover small to medium enterprise. I had other pitches to follow so I did so, intending to follow up the “no thanks” ones with some feedback in the middle of this week.

Then yesterday she sends me a completed article by her client. 1507 words so the length is on the nose – but it’s aimed at entirely the wrong readership so it’s nothing I can use at all. I get that it’s frustrating when an editor hasn’t had the chance to respond immediately but getting your client to write (or perhaps more realistically sign off) a 1500 word article without checking the magazine first isn’t the way forward. She’d worked damned hard, by the looks of it, too.

Here’s a basic article on a related topic


Others made similar errors by sending in stuff that was really very basic. Still others made sure they were talking about the UK market alone (the magazine goes out in paper form to thousands of professionals in the UK but in electronic form it reaches thousands more in the US, Africa and mainland Europe, so ‘strong UK angle’ is a weakness rather than a strength for this publication).

It’s not fair to expect the PR community to know every website and every magazine. I do understand that. Nonetheless, if you’re pitching to an editor there are some fundamental questions:

  • Ask yourself whether you’re familiar with the publication. If not, no sensible editor is going to mind being asked a bit about it. If it’s easily available, get hold of a copy (do not ask the editor of a national newspaper if you can see a copy, go and buy the damned thing).
  • If it’s unclear who the readers are, ask. In the Internet age you can’t assume a single-country readership. In a subject such as the one my magazine covers, sourcing, it might apply to any size of business. Ask rather than guess.
  • A related point is to find out the level of the readership. Earlier this year I had a pitch that started “you’ve probably never thought of using Microsoft Lync”; first, yes my readers have, and second, if you really were an expert you’d know it’s been called Skype for Business for years. Bit of a giveaway, that.
  • Consider the sort of article you’re being asked for. Recently I was looking for something for a regular column on Brexit. As it’s a regular column, anything that started “In March 2017 the UK will be leaving the EU” or “On 26 June 2016 the UK voted to leave the EU” is inappropriate; the readers know, it’s a regular column on the subject, they don’t need an introduction.

Of course there’s a very good argument that says it’s my job to edit out the clearing-the-throat guff and make sure the article gets to the point at the right level. This is fair and  correct. However, it’s equally true that if I get multiple submissions for a slot and two or three are spot-on because they’ve done the research in advance, those are the ones that will appeal to me most.

Do you need input on pitching or writing for the media market? I can help with both – call me on 07973 278780 or fill in the form below and we’ll talk.

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