6 stories not worth a pitch | Public Relation

This article originally appeared on PR Daily in August of 2017.

In public relations, it’s not always obvious what constitutes a good story.

It’s important to differentiate between legitimate story ideas and
self-serving fluff. It also requires a balance of diplomacy and backbone to
tell a boss or client that their idea won’t pass media muster.

Avoid the following pitches if you want to stay on good terms with media
contacts:

1. Low-level personnel announcements

Unless it’s an editor’s job to report on changes to the organization chart,
don’t bother with this pitch. Even high-level management changes are often
not significant news.

This rule also applies to office moves and, our personal favorite, a
website launch. Trust us, it isn’t news.

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2. Re-packaging a story that didn’t work the first time

Don’t beat a dead horse. A colleague tells the story of a client who was
enamored of a particular story angle. The agency backed it up with facts
and started pitching it. For whatever reason—timing, competition,
relevance—it failed to catch fire.

The clients didn’t want to “waste” the idea, but they also didn’t want the
agency to change it much. Consequently, when the team went to pitch the
re-packaged idea, it quickly died. It was a good learning opportunity,
however. Subsequent pitches went through more rigorous vetting.

3. Honors awarded by media outlets

At first glance, awards might seem newsworthy, but tread carefully. Last
year our agency helped a client receive honors from three publications.

Your first inclination might be to crow about these recognitions, but a
publication probably will not tout an award sponsored by a rival. Be
judicious about where and how you pitch such news.

4. Your company newsletter

Even if your newsletter is the crown jewel of your communications empire,
that doesn’t make it worthy of a press pitch. Rather, read through the
newsletter and see whether you can extract a newsworthy nugget.

Developing a nose for company news that has external relevance is essential
for garnering points with reporters. If analytics show that a newsletter is
outperforming industry competitors, or if there’s a dramatic upsurge in
readership, that might be a story for specific
niche journalists.

5. A frivolous or irrelevant product

Why would reporters care about a product or service that doesn’t fit their
editorial mandate?

At the outset of a product launch, the agency and client should discuss
features and benefits of a new product, line extension or a tweak to an
existing item. Do the changes warrant promotion?

Again, it may be smart to selectively—and softly—reach out to reporters who
could benefit from the tip.

6. A lackluster personality profile

Not every executive has a compelling enough story for
The New York Times’ Corner Office. Experienced PR people can spot key attributes in a client’s backstory and
size up their potential for coverage. Not everyone has the narrative arc to
make it.

In the beginning of a client-agency relationship, it pays to interview the
CEO and other execs. Look for what obstacles they’ve overcome, what risks
they took to get to where they are, interesting tidbits like quirky hobbies
(alligator handling, anyone?), unusual backgrounds or an inspiring triumph over hardship.

We use these elements to package a compelling pitch—and sometimes you just
can’t force it. In those cases, it’s better to avoid pitching the top-tier
pubs and go for specific industry sectors with lower editorial bars.

The bottom line: Know your contacts and outlets before you pitch. Find out
what a publication covers, and learn who writes about what. Thorough
research will help you become a trusted PR pro that journalists love to
hear from.

A version of this post first appeared on the

Crenshaw Communications blog.

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