Five Ways to Screw Up Your Press Pitch

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As an influential tech blogger (or "legend in my own mind"), I'm constantly receiving pitches from product developers, PR people, and Kickstarter hopefuls.

Actually, all of these folks are hopeful: They want me to check out their new app or gizmo or service and, hopefully, write about it.

Which I'm glad to do. That's more or less why I'm here. However, if you're one of those people looking to curry favor with us media types, I've got some bad news: You're doing it wrong. You're making stupid mistakes that not only make you look bad, but also kill your chances of landing our e-ink.

In fact, I can think of five ways you're totally screwing up your press pitch:

1. You don't tell me what your product actually is.

A surprising number of the emails I receive are either intentionally or accidentally vague. Just today I got one offering a promo code for a "book app," one that's "getting lots of buzz" on various sites.

Okay, but what do you mean by "book app"? Is it an e-book? An app about books? More importantly, what is the book (or app) actually about, and why would my audience care? This email contained none of that information. (It did, however, get my name wrong; see item #3.)

Like most bloggers, editors, and newspeople, I'm insanely busy. If you don't hook me in the first paragraph -- preferably the first sentence -- you're probably headed for the Trash folder. And if you don't tell me what your product actually is, you definitely are.

2. You don't include a link.

You'd think this would go without saying, but on a fairly regular basis I get gushing come-ons about some new product -- some of which I'd actually like to investigate further -- but no link to the product page.

In other words, "Here's my cool new thingie. Now go poke around Google until you find it."

That's borderline insulting. A PR person who sends out that kind of incomplete pitch should be fired. There's simply no excuse.

3. You get my name wrong.

It's "Rick." Not "Rich," not "Richard," and definitely not "Greg," which is how one sender addressed me. If you can't take the time to get my name right (and for heaven's sake, it's part of my email address), I can't take the time to read your missive. Period.

4. You use poor grammar.

Just as iFixit's Kyle Wiens won't hire people who use bad grammar, I won't look closely at pitches and press releases that have spelling errors and grammatical mistakes.

That's because I'm a grammar snob, as are most of my fellow writers and editors. Whether you're the hired-gun PR person or the chief cook and bottle washer for a one-man shop, bad copy makes you, your product, and your company look bad. It's the mark of an amateur, and a surefire way to get treated as such.

Can't write? Hire a copywriter. Not sure if your pitch reads properly? Hire an editor. Can't afford outside help? Look to the Web, like Dumb Little Man's "40+ Tips to Improve your Grammar and Punctuation."

5. You don't know my audience.

I don't write about food-related products. I don't interview company CEOs. Yet I'm constantly hearing from PR people who want me to write about new coffee beverages or some bigwig's comments on social media trends.

I realize that sometimes the path of least resistance is to simply spam every media person on your mailing list, but that's a mistake. If it's obvious you don't know me or my audience, I'm sending your email straight to the trash -- and possibly even putting you on my blacklist.

Don't pitch people who don't cover your kind of product. It wastes your time and theirs.

Parting thoughts

These aren't the only mistakes you're making. For example, if you haven't heard back from me after, say, a week, feel free to follow up -- once. That's it. If you don't get a reply, it's because I'm not interested in your pitch. Keep hounding me and I promise you'll never hear back from me.

What's more, never, ever call me on the phone unless I've asked you to or I called you first. PR pitches by phone are as intrusive as telemarketing calls, and they're simply unacceptable in the era of email.

All this may sound harsh, but I'm hoping these tips will benefit us all. I really do want to hear your pitch; I just want you to do a better job delivering it.

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