It’s 5:00 pm on a Friday and you’ve just pressed send on a pitch to your 3,000-name press list about your client’s new app that tells you how fat your Chipotle is going to make you. Guess what? You just broke all of the rules of the pitching world in one fell swoop. Impressive! But we know you can do better than that.

When it comes to pitching media, it’s good to know the do’s but the don’ts can be even more important. i.e, you need to familiarize yourself with the many, many ways you can piss off a reporter.

Reporters are busy, work on tight deadlines, and only want information that’s relevant to what they cover. Being mindful of those things above all is critical and will help you build the right kind of relationships in the long run. When you stray from these truths, you’re heading for the SPAM folder.

While we know there are probably countless no-no’s we could have discussed here (such as being too self-promotional or not being honest about who or what you’re offering “Reply to this email for a free dinner with Larry David, Michelle Obama and the entire cast of Game of Thrones!”) we’ve narrowed in on 7 ways to get to the top of a reporter’s sh*t list:

#1: Misspell their name

You: Dear Kristin, I have a tip your readers will be interested in.
Reporter: Uhm, I don’t think so. Thanks, Christine.

You spelled the reporter’s name wrong. Game over. Use common sense before you press send. Check — nay, DOUBLE-check — to make sure you’ve spelled the reporter’s name right (and, if you mention their outlet in the email, check that too!)

#2: Be oblivious

You: I have a very important story about human rights abuse in Nebraska I think will interest your readers.
Reporter: I write about make-up at Teen Vogue.

Don’t blast out a pitch to a big fat media list. Be selective with who you reach out to and do your homework. Taking the time to do so will pay off for both parties.

#3: Blather on and on

You: Hi, here’s 7 paragraphs to tell you that next month is national jelly month and why you should care.
Reporter: *Looks at a wall of text, loses will to live, deletes e-mail*

Save the long-windedness for your livejournal or Parks & Rec fanfiction. Be as concise as possible when pitching reporters. When possible, bullet-out the most salient points or put them in bold so that a reporter who’s skimming can get right to the important stuff.

#4: Reach out at a stupid time

You: Sorry I know it’s 5 o’clock on a Friday but there’s a story I think is up your alley.
Reporter: Will it still be up my alley on Monday?
You: Yes.
Reporter: Then why are you pitching me now? I’m getting ready for a date.


Be mindful of reporters’ schedules and don’t send pitches late in the day – especially on Fridays. It can wait, and if it can’t, well then you’re on your own.

#5: Go MIA

You: You’re going to love this guy’s story.
Reporter: Oh great, when can I talk with him?
You: …
Reporter: Hello?
You: (2 days later) Oh sorry, I got distracted. Let me check!
Reporter: Don’t bother. I’ve moved on.

When a reporter expresses interest in talking to your spokesperson, be as responsive as possible and don’t leave them hanging. Even if it’s just to let them know you’re working on it, they appreciate being kept in the loop.

#6: Go out too far on that limb

You: I saw you wrote about that blizzard. Would you like to talk with Super Soup Company about the best cans of soup they sell for a cold day?
Reporter: You’re stretching aren’t you? Admit it.

Be honest and realistic…with reporters and with yourself. If you think it’s too much of a stretch when reaching out to a reporter, it probably is.

#7: Disregard their work schedule

You: The report’s embargo lifts at 9am Eastern.
Reporter: Yeahhhh ok. The thing is, that doesn’t work with our production timeline. 12:01am eastern would be better.

Keep reporters’ production timelines in mind when you’re setting your embargo time. Think about what would help with their schedule and production timing. Being sensitive to this will help you both out (and might even ensure that you get your story in the print edition!).

Editor’s note: M+R’s Katie Andriulli & Michelle collaborated on this post over a magical Google Doc and lattes.