Bad Publicity Pitches and What To Do

Beautiful Holiday Table Setting

I’m not much of a ranter but every now and then I have a huge desire to just let ‘er rip. I am experiencing that feeling right now, as a matter of fact. However, this is not a sudden, knee-jerk response to some perceived transgression. No, this is what I would call a slow simmer that has been going on for a few years now and I have hit the tipping point. What to do with it?

Several times over the past year I have read social media and blog posts that I felt compelled to respond to, but held back because I just didn’t want to deal with what I knew would be the ensuing aftermath. I didn’t want to invite the flood of unsolicited responses and reactions that ranting draws.

And then I got to thinking…I have you! I mean, we’re all in the Savvy Sunday News Community together. You opted in to get these written pieces every Sunday. You are interested in book publicity and marketing, so maybe, just maybe you’d be interested in hearing about what bugs me from time to time.

And if you’re not interested, you can tell me. I really can take helpful feedback, but send it to me rather than publicly announcing it, OK? It just seems passive-aggressive to me to tell the world when you don’t like something rather than the person who committed the infraction, which is the reason for today’s post.

My work is all about taking a book, finding what’s newsworthy about it and its author, and then getting coverage for both. I go to top-tier, secondary-tier, and tertiary-tier media, as well as those in personal networks and influencers. With the added social media platforms and the fact that groups of people can talk to groups of people, well, that’s a lot of interaction and power.

From time-to-time, over the years I’ve seen posts and articles and ads that are all about the stupid things publicists write, say, and do when pitching. It goes beyond publicists now and has expanded to authors and others who are doing any kind of pitching. Many don’t know the ins and outs of the process so, as you can imagine, there are those who enjoy a little publicity shaming when the opportunity presents itself.

And it isn’t just the newbies. We all make mistakes from time-to-time, so no one is immune.

The bottom line is I get annoyed at this, especially when they publicly ridicule those who simply don’t know any better…yet.

I hate to confess that my first, knee-jerk response is to share all the bad things I’ve witnessed journalists, producers, and bloggers do over the years. I mean, two can play that game, but really, how does that help anyone? And it just puts me at that same level, so I don’t…but secretly want to!

Since we are here and it’s just us, and because I’m not naming names, here are a few of the offensive behaviors I have witnessed from media professionals:

  • Requesting a review copy of a book due to personal interest with absolutely no plans of even considering a review. (This has happened at all levels, including the Times, WSJ, and others.)
  • Spending an excruciating amount of my time having me set up interviews with an author along with the author’s contacts and experts to help build out the story, then cut my authors out of the story altogether when it finally goes to print — and not tell me before I see it in print. (Um, a writer at The New York Times was the biggest offender of this bad behavior.)
  • Lure in authors to do an interview of some kind, and then at the last minute inform them of the hefty fee they charge to do it. (Ran into this with a number of podcasters.)
  • Insult authors and publicists for making a mistake. Sometimes it’s an honest mistake!
  • Never responding to a pitch even with a simple “no.” Although, I have to say this one just goes with the territory. If you’re pitching anything, expect it. But still. Even just a “No thank you” at least allows you to cross the media person off the list and move on.

That’s just a few of them. Perhaps you can see why when I read their complaints about bad pitches, I would love to respond with their bad behavior. But I don’t.
I’ve decided to handle this another way. In this week’s Savvy Sunday News, I’m highlighting some of the media complaints I see, and then I’m using them as an educational moment. Most of their complaints hold some truth, so we’re going to look at how we can be better and avoid being publicly shamed like this. I have a feeling this may become a regular feature in SSN.

I am also going to take out the media person’s name from each of the criticisms below. I don’t want to be guilty of the same behavior I’m pointing out. However, I do have the actual names and links to their posts so I could prove it if I ever had to. Let’s get started. These were all posted publicly on social media for all to read:

Media Person #1:

“Who wants a personalized pr pitch anyway?”

“Hi [MediaContactFirstName]​” followed by: “I think it would be a great fit for [MediaOutletName]​.”

OK, that would be incredibly embarrassing and is obviously a technical glitch. Fortunately, the media person did not include the offending publicist’s name; some of them do. The lesson here is to test things before you send them out to catch something like this and prevent it from happening in the first place. IMHO, it’s better to actually make your pitches customized, rather than sending out something like this in a massive email campaign.

Or how about this one:

Media Person #2:

“I got a PR pitch to include some random gourmet popcorn in “any holiday gift guides you might be working on” and I have never been more tempted to write back “how ****ing dare you!

1) it’s a pandemic??? 2) i have only been writing about said pandemic since march 3) i have never written a holiday gift guide 4) even if i was i wouldn’t be starting it in AUGUST? 5) gourmet popcorn IN THIS ECONOMY!”

OK, she makes a good point. It’s important to pitch people who write on your topic — Don’t send out your pitches to just anyone! And, by the way, I put in the **** to soften the language. She did not soften it in any way.

Media Person #3:

“You know who really pisses me off? Bossy PR people. If I don’t write back to you it’s because your PR pitch has NOTHING to do w/ what I write about. If you follow-up a 2nd time, imma send you to the right person but not without letting you know you’re bad at your job. Go away.”

OK, she’s a little cranky. This is another example of the importance of doing the research first and making sure you’re pitching the right person. Everyone makes mistakes from time-to-time, but we live in an amazing time during which you can research this right at your fingertips. No excuse not to do this. Find out who writes on your topic and pitch them.

Media Person #4:

“Tired: Complaining about poorly targeted PR pitches

Wired: Complaining about PR pitches for topics WE ALREADY COVERED.”

This is also an important point. If you write on a particular topic that was just written about by a writer at The New York Times, or in some other publication, don’t pitch that same writer your topic and book — unless you specifically comment that you read the article and if they plan to do a follow-up piece, to consider your angle. Otherwise, it’s been done and you need to pitch elsewhere. That’s how it works.

And this is only just the beginning of what NOT TO DO when you’re pitching your story idea. There are many more. One learns by doing, and the more you pitch, the more of these important rules you learn, but when someone shames you while you’re in that learning process, well, it just seems so heartless to me. Now you have to learn what to do BEFORE you even go out there to do it.

You know, there must be something to that idea of confession being good for the soul. I feel better having brought up what’s been annoying me, and sharing mistakes authors make and what to do instead. I will be covering more of this here.

Bottom line: Publicity isn’t brain surgery, but it isn’t all that easy either. There are rules to this game and you will be much better off following them. I don’t care much for these “tell-all” blogs and Twitter feeds that blast people for making mistakes, but they exist, and I will do my best to make sure you shine and come across as the savvy pro you are, or you can take my class on how to do it right. I had to throw that in, right? 🙂 Let me know if you’re interested.

To your success!


P.S. If you’re in the United States, then Happy Thanksgiving! Wherever you live in the world, I’m wishing you peace and love. Even when times are tough, look around, and find some things to be thankful for. It truly is A Wonderful World.






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