Media Relations Gone Wrong: How Not to Pitch a Journalist (Video)

media relations mistakes - how not to pitch a journalistThe Internet and social media have certainly made it easier to conduct media relations in a more efficient and less intrusive way.

At my first PR job I had to type in contact addresses from the hard-copy Bacon’s guide so we could mail merge and send out the press materials. Or stand over the fax machine feeding through one press release at at time.

Being required to do cold-call follow-ups as a junior employee was one of the main reasons I gravitated toward other forms of online marketing as soon as they started to emerge.

Fortunately today there are much better tools at our disposal be it PR software suites like Vocus and Cision or networking services like HARO and Seek or Shout.

And while the phone is still the best option in some situations, email and social media have made it much easier to interact with the media in ways that are better for all.

However, even though the tools and communication channels have improved many of the mistakes with regards to distributing press releases and following up have stood the test of time.

So in the spirit of my post on buzzwords and marketing speak in press releases I thought I’d have a little fun by capturing the essence of how not to pitch a journalist in a video.

Ever been involved in something like this on either side, although I hope not as extreme?

Here’s a transcript of the dialog:

Hi, I’m a busy important journalist.

–Well at least until the next round of layoffs. LOL! Seriously though, did you get my press release?


–My press release. Did you get it? I emailed it to you. Three times.

We get a lot of releases.

–But mine is really important. I sent it to you on Twitter. And Facebook. And Google+. I took a picture of it and shared it on Pinterest.

I have no idea what release you are talking about. And what the heck is Google+?

–Seriously though, my press release. It says “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.” That means you should write about it right away.

How did you get in here?

–I left you a voice mail every day this week but you haven’t called me back. So I had to sneak into your office. Now about my press release. Aren’t you going to cover it?

Why on earth would I pay attention to you?

–Because I personalized my email pitch. I used your name in the email. I mentioned that I like your work. And each of the five follow-up emails I sent were also personalized.

I’ve got to go.

–But my press release is really good. It is filled with buzzwords and jargon. I used unique, revolutionary, one-of-a-kind. My news is best of breed!

News? Please go away.

–But I embedded multimedia in my release. Images! Video! And I socialized it too.

Do you even know what I cover?

–First you write an article about my press release. Then a bunch of other sites will take your article, barely change it and then publish it on their own sites. It is called aggregation!


–Please. I’m begging you. My client thinks I have an actual relationship with journalists like you.

I’m going to enjoy kicking your butt.

–So will you publish the story today?


  1. says

    This is the best kind of funny: poignant & informative.

    I’ve never heard the word “press release” pronounced that way – love it!

  2. says

    I write a syndicated fitness column that is big on exposing frauds and busting myths, so I laugh when I get pitches to cover something like Kim Karashian’s weight loss pills or some other “miracle” fat burner. Do they not realize my column often rips this stuff apart?

  3. says

    Ivan – thanks, and nice collection of responses. I like the last two in particular.

    James – classic! I guess in that sense they are actually a decent source of material. :)

  4. says

    I liked the video. It was quite humorous! So, what would you say is the best way to pitch to a journalist?

  5. Wendy McAllister says

    Hi Adam!

    I just saw this post on Zite. I don’t know if you remember me from years ago when I worked @Rocketworks. You were consulting on their PR efforts. Hope all is well with you.

  6. says

    Janey – Good question! Looks like Dave’s got you covered. :) I’d say the best way varies quite a bit based on what you are pitching and who you are pitching, whereas the “dont’s” are more universal.

    Wendy – Hey, nice to hear from you! I do remember you, and The Plunge too!

  7. says

    The pitching thing makes me freaking nuts. I don’t think you really get it until you sit on the other side and get pitches from PR pros for your blog. It’s really, really, really bad. What’s more amazing to me, though, is people have been talking about the right way to do it for eons, yet mass emailed news releases still are distributed multiple times a day.

  8. says

    “Freaking nuts” is a good way to put it Gini. :) I get quite a few way-off pitches and my blog is pretty small, so I can only imagine what others are getting. I like monitoring what comes in just out of professional curiosity, to see what approaches people are taking. But for the average journalist, blogger etc. it must seem like a steady stream of noise.

  9. says

    When I worked at a newspaper, we’d get hundreds of press releases a day. By the time we got some of them, we had already done our 4 p.m. budget meeting and set our content. We’d always get emails from colleges we’d never cover, but they kept sending us stuff. You have to target the right media, not just the media.

  10. says

    Hi Adam,

    I’m studying to get my Masters in Integrated Marketing and I’m currently in a PR class. I liked your video better than the one the course had on the topic, so I shared it with my class.

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