As a writer, I’m blessed to have PR peeps contacting me 24-7 about the latest, greatest news. Quite frequently, however, their pitches are bland and unrelated to my work. Many of the pitches I receive fall under one of the following categories:
- Irrelevant: Mashable is a tech and digital news site, why do I get pitched by health insurance providers and car dealers?
- Poorly Written: Typos are passable (not really), but please do not ramble. It’s confusing. Get to the point.
- Too Lengthy: If all pitches could be less than four sentences, the world would be a better (more productive) place.
- Boring: ENTERTAIN ME, PEOPLE! I stare at two computer screens for a living. Give me some action; don’t put me to sleep.
- Annoying: If your pitch sounds like this (“Buzz word. Buzz word. Buzz word. Buzz word.”), I will delete it immediately.
After nearly a year at Mashable, I’ve accumulated a hefty load of email and tweet pitches and have developed a keen hate for a few overused phrases. Please help out the world and never use the following phrases in pitches to your favorite reporters. (Note: actual examples included below.)
1. & 2. “Circle Back” / “Follow Up”
Example: “I wanted to circle back with you and see if you had a chance to review the details below regarding our latest initiative.”
When a PR rep emails a reporter and doesn’t get a timely response, usually he or she assumes the reporter’s “email may not be working” or that perhaps the “email was caught by spam.” Usually this isn’t the case. Most likely, the pitch was dry, confusing or lengthy, and the writer didn’t have time yet to contemplate what in the world the message was.
In any case, hasty reps usually resend the email, in an attempt to “circle back.” Circling back (or following up) usually entails back tracking, though. You’ve just put yourself on my “annoying” list, lady.
3. “Put Out Some Feelers”
Example: “Just putting out some feelers to see if you’re interested in covering our startup.”
Gag. Are you a lobster? An ant? A slug? Ick. Please keep your feelers to yourself, creeper. Feel free to get back to me when you’re a human again.
4. “Gauge/Re-Gauge Your Interest”
Example: “Following up with you regarding our email exchange below to re-gauge you’re interest in speaking with [Company X].”
Much like putting out those good ol’ feelers, PR professionals often like to “gauge” a reporter’s interest on a particular topic. If the reporter doesn’t happen to respond, a follow-up email may ensue, in which the PR rep attempts to “re-gauge” the writer’s interest.
Yes, we’re glad that you’ve got our best interests in mind, but if we were truly interested, we’d probably be knocking at your door first.
5., 6. & 7. “Industry Leading” / “Revolutionary” / “Groundbreaking”
Example: “Our startup is revolutionizing mobile video delivery to make it easy, fast and fun.” (From a little known startup that was founded in 2007.)
PR peeps love buzz words. “Hey! Let’s say our service is industry leading, revolutionary or groundbreaking! That will get ’em to write about us!”
No. No, it won’t. That will get us to promptly delete your email or respond with a short “not interested.”
It’s especially saddening when a pitch is full of typos or requires me to read it thrice in order to understand it. Here’s one I received last winter: “This new line of Batteries are revolutionary that provide an opportunity for retailers to offer strong green stories and for consumers to do their part to help the environment without taxing their wallets to do so.” Yikes.
8. “Did you get my email?” / “I noticed you didn’t respond.”
Example: “How have you been? Did you get my email? I can resend it.”
If all other tactics fail, the average PR professional has one last option: resending… over. and. over. again. Usually, this method is accompanied by some amendment that asks if the reporter has received the email. Then, the PR rep tries to figure out what might have happened during the transmission process. Here are a few common excuses that PR pros use for resending pitches:
- The PR rep fears that the reporter’s email provider might not be working correctly.
- His or her crappy pitch might have fallen into the spam filter.
- The reporter may have been too busy to read it, so they wanted to “put it back on her radar.”
- The reporter might have accidentally deleted the email.
Message to all PR folks: email works. And when it doesn’t work, the email provider usually sends a message explaining the delivery error. It’s not the email provider, it’s you.
If you work in public relations, it a good idea not to completely annoy the reporters you work with. Try to limit the PR jargon and just be a human.
For some additional tips on pitching tech reporters in particular, check out this video from a panel I spoke on last winter about “Demystifying PR for Startups: Identifying Your Target Message and Your Reporter.”
Readers, let me know which PR pitch phrases you hate in the comments below!