Pitching isn’t easy. Even PR professionals who painstakingly research contacts and outlets, write compelling copy, and persevere with follow-ups might not get the results they’re hoping for.

Arbitrary as it may seem, many times there’s an actual reason a journalist is rejecting your pitch. Here are some to consider, along with ideas for improving your approach.

1. It’s just not relevant.

Perhaps you sent a pitch announcing a new butcher shop to a local food columnist, only to find that person focuses on vegetarian options. Or maybe you pitched music education news affecting elementary schools to an outlet that only covers music education on the collegiate level. It’s details like these that disqualify your pitch immediately, so be careful to target the right contacts, outlets and audiences.

How do you fix this?

Use media database tools to narrow your search results by niche topic, geographic area, audience demographics and more. Even then, you may have to inspect an outlet or contact more closely to determine if it’s a good fit for a particular pitch.

2. They recently covered a similar story.

A journalist won’t be inclined to cover the same story or topic again in a short period of time, unless you can provide a new development, source or angle. Even then, you might have to wait until that story or topic rolls around again on their editorial calendar.

How do you fix this?

Keep tabs on the journalist’s work and follow their recent posts on social media. In doing so, you’ll learn what topics and trends the journalist prefers to cover, promote, talk about and share—and what topics and trends to avoid.

3. They honestly don’t have the time.


Maybe you caught them on deadline, or maybe your email will always have to compete with the 1,263 unread messages in their inbox. Some journalists will never get to your pitch and it’s not because you’re actively doing something wrong. In fact, some journalists receive up to 80-100 pitches per day.

How do you fix this?

Write a subject line that stands out. Don’t try to be clever; instead, clearly state what your pitch is about in 50 characters or less.

4. You’re not offering an exclusive.

Journalists hate knowing they’re not getting a scoop. If a journalist can see your pitch is being sent via mass email, they will retreat. If the wording of your message indicates that more than one recipient is being approached, or multiple outlets will be promised exclusive coverage, they won’t take the bait. You have to be considerate of a journalist’s time—and not make them feel like they’re competing for your news in Hunger Games fashion.

How do you fix this?

Start by targeting the single most relevant journalist on your list and offer a true exclusive. If your ideal media outlet doesn’t go for it, work your way down the list and stop when your pitch is accepted. Is that slow? Yes, but “slow PR”—the methodical approach–yields better results. You’ll get quality placements, rather than cursory news coverage.

5. You sent unsolicited attachments.

Email attachments are so 1998. But worse than being gauche, they often get stopped by a journalist’s spam filter, or get immediately routed to the trash. Don’t put your entire pitch in jeopardy for an itty bitty image file.

How do you fix this?

Use a branded newsroom or devote a section on your company website to hosting links, multimedia content and press releases that the journalist can access if they need more information.

6. You spelled their name wrong.

The mother of all typos! Don’t send an email or pitch riddled with misspellings or grammatical errors. Pay especially close attention when it comes to spelling the recipient’s name or other proper nouns. Errors look unprofessional, reflect poorly on your brand and repel detail-oriented reporters and editors.

How do you fix this?

Enable spellcheck in your word processing application, of course, but also ask a colleague to read your pitch or press release for grammar, accuracy and flow. As much as journalists dislike seeing their name misspelled, some get excited when they see their named spelled correctly.

About Teresa Dankowski

Teresa Dankowski is the managing editor for Cision Blog and primarily covers best practices in marketing, PR and social media. She also serves as Cision’s content marketing manager and moonlights as a freelance journalist. She enjoys printmaking, wine, TV and dominating at rec league softball.

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