When PR pros throw a bad pitch

In my personal life, I am an elected official and serve on Elizabethtown Borough Council. In that capacity, I started a blog called Chronicling Elizabethtown about seven years ago with the focus of covering local news from my perspective as a member of Borough Council. Since my focus is on local news, municipal government and what’s happening in Elizabethtown, Pa., it serves its purpose well of getting the word out to the community. As a result, it gets the appropriate kind of traffic that I would expect (a few dozen visits per week).

Chronicling Elizabethtown has been around long enough now, and has apparently generated enough traffic, that it shows up on the radar of public relations professionals. For a couple of years now, I have received emails from many of those folks pitching products, reviews and ideas for their clients. As a PR pro myself, that’s a good thing to do.  The problem is the vast majority of these pitches have nothing to do with Elizabethtown, local government or any topics that I write about. Consider this pitch that I got just this week.

“Happy Monday! Just wanted to circle back around to see if you would like to set up an interview with our style experts to get the latest on bridal fashion for 2015! Also, please let me know if you are working on any bridal or fashion stories and would like hi-res images.”

If you’ve spent more than 2 minutes reading Chronicling Elizabethtown, you know it has nothing to do with brides, bridal parties or the wedding industry.

And then there was this one from last year (remembering that I focus on local government and related news):

“Please allow me to introduce Healthy HooHoo-premium feminine care- for any upcoming feature opportunities.”

If either of the PR people above were pitching for Major League Baseball, these would have been wild pitches that went flying far outside the strike zone.

Why do I get pitches like this? The answer is twofold. Clients hire PR professionals to generate buzz about their products or issues by getting coverage in the media and on blogs. Too often, the client is simply happy to know that the PR agency or professional has emailed pitches to as many bloggers as possible. And the PR pro is happy to oblige without further explanation of where those pitches went – so there’s little to know research into the blogs. Maybe Healthy HooHoo’s CEO was happy that the company’s PR agency pitched to dozens of blogs. But I would want to know how effective those pitches were. How many generated coverage? And what kind of coverage? Furthermore, how much new business did the pitches generate?

While it’s true that public relations isn’t rocket science, it does take effort and thought to do effective work on behalf of clients. For instance, I have a client who is building medical clinics in the Democractic Republic of the Congo using green building practices and manufacturing building products with locally available supplies. It’s a good story made better because the architect in charge sold all of his belongings and moved to the Congo to work on the project. Rather than cast a wide net in pitching this story, I did some research and found a number of publications and blogs that cover architecture. I also pitched the story to the architect’s hometown paper, which covered the story.

If you hire a PR consultant or firm, you want their work to be effective. You’ve hired them for results, not just to make you feel good. And that means taking the time to research where pitches should be sent and not just blasting them out to bloggers everywhere.

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