Earning Media Coverage

I know. I know. I’ve been truant in my blogging duties. Maybe if July 4 fell on a Friday or Flatiron’s business wasn’t as brisk, I’d have more time to devote to this space.

Whatever the reason, I wanted to expand upon my last post in which I posited that even today’s most digitally savvy PR firms continue to earn their bread and butter by generating editorial coverage for their clients’ products, services and POVs.

The PR pitch is alive and well, or is it? I can’t remember in all my years in the game a more challenging time for gaining reporters’ mindshare than the one in which we now find ourselves. Here are the three primary reasons:

Badly Pitched 

The quality of the underlying story idea and/or the way the idea is presented leaves much to be desired. In what may be an annual rite, Business Insider’s startup reporter Alyson Shontell outlined why most PR pitches go awry:

Dear PR Lady: Here’s Why I Didn’t Open Any Of Your 3 Email Pitches (Although I Wish I Had)

10 Dead-Honest Reasons Reporters Delete Your Emails


The journalists receiving these story pitches simply don’t cover the topic. As Amber Mac reported in her Fast Company piece “Social Media Makes Bad Pitches Go Viral–And Can Save PR From Itself:”

“Every day I immediately delete about 20 percent of the messages in my inbox. Historically, the emails I trashed were mostly relegated to Nigerian scams and requests for cash from someone “unable to access” his pending inheritance. Fortunately, Gmail spam filters have helped to abolish most of these. Unfortunately, these same filters can do nothing for the endless stream of PR pitches that assault my inbox that are often irrelevant, impersonal, and, dare I say it, lazy.”


The sheer volume of PR pitches stifling reporters’ inboxes, plus the myriad other sources for story ideas now at their disposal, have made the prospect of breaking through the clutter a near-impossible task for most PR pros. Over the weekend, New York Times lead “Bits” blogger Nick Bilton reported on his frustration with email in his post “Disruptions: Life’s Too Short for So Much E-Mail:”

“This month alone, I received more than 6,000 e-mails. That doesn’t include spam, notifications or daily deals, either. With all those messages, I have no desire to respond to even a fraction of them. I can just picture my tombstone: Here lies Nick Bilton, who responded to thousands of e-mails a month. May he rest in peace.”

Every six weeks or so, as president of the Publicity Club of New York, I preside over a luncheon at which top-tier journalists attempt to make sense of the changed PR-reporter relationship.  In May, we hosted key reporters on the mobile beat from some of the most sought-after news outlets including Mashable, TechCrunch, GigaOM, Business Insider and Ad Age.  (Audio here.)

The panelists were generous in the advice they shared with the 130 PR pros in the room.  One might even have come away thinking that they looked forward to hearing from us. Not so fast! Don’t think for a a moment that you can forego doing some homework before hitting the send button.

  • Does the pitch cut directly and succinctly to the chase? 
  • Is the reporter the exact right person at the exact right outlet for the story? 
  • Is there any other major breaking news happening that day related to the journalist’s beat?   

In my next post, I plan to take a look at several new tools designed to help with the second leg of the media engagement stool: how to identify the right influencers. In the interim, if you’re in the city on Wednesday, August 8, our next PCNY luncheon panel will cover the “lifestyle” beat and feature editorial decisionmakers from The NY Daily News, The Huffington Post, “Good Day New York,” WPLJ Radio and Buzzfeed. Please join us.