CEOs and CMOs know that a well-placed story in the right publication can do wonders for your business. In the best case scenario, your story is so cutting edge – think of the Facebooks and Slacks of the world – that publishers knock on your door to hear about it. But in reality, how many of us truly have opportunities like that?

The reason PR can be so tough, whether you do it in-house or hire an agency, is that media outlets – the ones you want to be in – aren’t all that interested in cold pitches from PR people. According to a recent survey of 1,300 publishers from Fractl via MarketingProfs, 73 percent of editors and journalists at top-tier publications (and 62 percent at other sites) find pitches slightly valuable or not valuable.

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That’s a lot of time, money and effort wasted on a task that provides very little ROI most of the time. The problem is that so many people, both in-house and at agencies, do a few common things wrong when pitching stories to these publications:

  1. They don’t do their research: Are you pitching the right reporter and the right beat? If your story has nothing to do with their interest or their editorial calendar, you’ll just come across as annoying and incompetent.
  1. They sound like a robot: Are you (or your agency) farming out these pitches to a glorified telemarketing service? For the love of all that is good in the world, don’t read from a script, it’s the quickest way to get blacklisted. Remember – you’re talking to another human being; act like it.
  1. They pitch at the worst possible time: Do you know when your writer or editor is working on a deadline? Contact them the hour before they need to file a story and you can bet your life they won’t pick up the phone or look at that email.
  1. They have zero relationship with the reporter: Do you know them or have you provided a good story idea in the past? Reporters are busy and don’t have time to waste listening to every self-promotional pitch (and let’s be honest, most PR people are doing exactly that).

Relationships Are Important for PR…

Many people would have put “having a relationship with the reporter” at the top of the list of ways to get your pitch heard. And yes, it’s important.

Last week I was riding home on the train and got a call from a reporter at one of these top-tier publications who was writing a story on, of all things, the business of honey and beekeeping. She got my name and background from another B2B reporter I had worked with in the past on stories that had NOTHING to do with beekeeping. However, my relationship with that reporter was strong enough that he knew about me and my interests, I knew about him and his, and my name was top of mind when this story idea on bees and honey came up. (Yes, I’m a beekeeper; weird, I know.) 

It’s that type of relationship you’re looking for. You want them to come to you.

…And They Can Be Built Through Helpful Content

It’s a bit of chicken and egg situation. How can you build a relationship with a reporter if you can’t get them to listen to your pitches? The best way we’ve done that here at Scribewise, both for ourselves and our B2B clients, is by being helpful. You get so much by giving, both in real life and public relations. But you have to do it, truly, without expecting anything in return. Otherwise, your “helpfulness” will have the stink of your real agenda all over it.

Smart and insightful content is a great way to be helpful. Really get to know a reporter and the types of stories they work on, or your business prospect and the types of pain points they wrestle with. When you create something that can help them, drop them a note with a simple “I thought you’d be interested in this.” Period, full stop. Don’t add anything else about what you want them to do (at least not every time).

Be helpful and eventually it will come back to you, in PR, business and life. It’s not easy, it’s not quick, but it’s the surest way to find the type of success you’re looking for.