A friend of mine – we’ll call him Harzog The Bold – runs a technology blog out of New York City. When I asked him for samples of good or bad pitches, he was only too happy to spend a few minutes searching his inbox. This is what he came up with.

As I see more and more pitches come across my desk for this blog column, it’s interesting to see common trends begin to emerge, in terms of gaps and processes.

One of the most frequent mistakes is confusing content from a press release as a pitch. Journalists and publicists alike do it.

They aren’t the same thing.

Why? Because a pitch takes a piece of news, such as a product launch, but repackages it as a customized story for a specific publication and journalist. It isn’t about resending the same thing they’ve already dismissed as uninteresting; it’s creating a new story based on your news.

This is different from using email to distribute a press release. Nobody expects a press release to be customized, right?

Here is the pitch Harzog The Not-So-Meek sent me.

THE PITCH

From:
Subject: The Becomes the Latest Must-Have Vaporizer

Hi,

Since becoming a must-have consumer accessory over the past few years, vaporizers have evolved from big box devices to sleek, fast portables. In this up-and-coming industry, has officially begun providing the newest innovation in vape technology, the . While other vaporizers have traditionally been bulky and inconvenient for travel, the Ascent easily fits right into your pocket for an on-the-go vaping experience.

This portable vaporizer offers an innovative and efficient design, as well as many advanced features including programmable OLED display, a dual mouthpiece, and a full 3-hour battery life. Compact, yet powerful and versatile, the can be used with both aromatic blends and liquids. Its glass-on-glass air path provides perfectly tasting vapor and an easy-to-clean interior. The programmable OLED display allows you to set your own desired temperature for a unique and specific vaping experience.

Available at for $249.99, the is perfect for any aficionado who longs after the most cutting-edge portable technology. The is available in burl wood, carbon fiber, stealth black, and a limited edition skull design.

Please let me know if you would like additional information or artwork.

Thanks,

What’s my first impression, after I woke up from that brief moment of zzzzzzzzzzzz…. narcolepsy? This is a technology blog, not a vaping trade publication. (I know what vaping is because of my son, who is quite passionate about it. The non-e-cig fanatic would have no clue.)

Instead of regurgitating a press release that the journalist/blogger has probably already decided is not worthy of interest, this needed an infusion of brain power to tie in something relevant.

Invest time to make your pitch meaningful. Make sure your entry-level staff know how!

A more seasoned PR pro might have crafted a story about how first-adopters in the technology field are more likely to use e-cigarettes, or how the technology behind the e-cig works. Maybe even have showcased a technology geek using it for the first time, or pitched a series of guest blog posts or interviews following the geek’s story as he quits smoking because of e-cigarettes and reviews e-cig techie-style products. Naturally, including photos of him using this particular brand…

(No offense taken for the geek term, I hope. I’m one myself.)

If you are hoping for a technology blog or publication to cover news of a non-technology product, the story idea you pitch MUST fit their technology industry in some way.

You can’t send a product release to a non-relevant industry. And if you are just blasting out a press release? Allow it to LOOK LIKE a press release. Don’t disguise it as a pitch. Your reputation depends on it.

THE FOLLOW-UP PITCH

From:
To:
Subject: Re: The Becomes the Latest Must-Have Vaporizer

Hi,

I just wanted to make sure you received my previous email.

The has become the latest must-have vaporizer, offering an innovative and efficient design, as well as many advanced features including programmable OLED display, a dual mouthpiece, and a full 3-hour battery life. Compact, yet powerful and versatile, the can be used with both aromatic blends and liquids. Its glass-on-glass air path provides perfectly tasting vapor and an easy-to-clean interior.

The is available at for $249.99. Please let me know if you would like additional information or artwork.

Thanks!

This isn’t a pitch, or even a follow up, really. It’s a quick attempt to shove a press release under the nose of an uninterested blogger. Again. Just in case they didn’t see it the first time.

Effective pitching from a PR pro on top of their game might have used the second outreach to give the blogger some fresh ideas tailored to his audience. Instead, this one mass-blasted a copy/paste follow-up, investing about five minutes of their time. I wonder how many journalists got the same thing? And how many of them were too annoyed by the mass blast to even read the email?

Perhaps it’s the ridiculous workload we often deal with, or an intern handling the work, but clearly this was done without stopping to think of the end recipient. It was done in the most expeditious fashion possible. This might have been fine in a pre-1990 world, but hello?! Times have changed, journalist expectations have changed and what it takes to create results have changed.

THE PROBLEM

I was fortunate enough to get feedback directly from the journalist this time around. SO instead of reading me blathering on, want to read what Harzog The Great & Noble has to say? It’s great feedback.

  • This pitch was never even noticed the first time around. The subject line is so “blah” it didn’t even catch my attention. (The only reason I noticed it on resend is because I was looking for bad examples for your blog!)
  • In my humble opinion, it’s good PR to add a little education to a pitch, especially when a product isn’t mainstream. She could’ve added wording to educate me. I honestly don’t know what “vaping” is, yet the pitch is written as though vaping/vaporizers are mainstream and everyone should just know what vaping is. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think we’re at that point yet; I think I have a clue what that stuff is (sort of, but I could be way off. I assume it’s the e-cigarette movement?) but she could save people precious time by adding reminders and a few facts, maybe even a courtesy Wikipedia link.
  • The entire pitch is blah and it comes off as though the agency “sprayed and prayed.” There’s nothing to work with, no news hook, etc. She could’ve somehow tied the product to health news or said why it’s growing in popularity within a certain demographic. All I see is: Here’s the product, here’s the price. I understand there’s the goal of keeping a pitch short, but this is just so blah. Silly buzz phrases like “cutting-edge” take up space and add nothing to the pitch. Also, the pitch doesn’t mention my blog and doesn’t say why it might be a good fit, so again the ‘spray & pray’ vibe. In my blog’s about page, it says the blog combines facts and thought-provoking information. I don’t see the latter in this pitch.

Great input, Harzog The Brave! Thank you.

(Are you a journalist? Send me a pitch to review! I need more grist for the weekly mill.)

So, awesome reader, what would you add to his list?