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How to deal with editor rejection

So, Your PR Pitch Was Rejected, Now What?

If the incredible high of landing a great piece of press coverage is akin to spinning straw into gold, then our own personal expectations (not to mention those of our clients) are like Rumpelstiltskin, demanding that we continually work our magic to churn out more more more! And yet, sources say that "on average, the media rejects 95% of the pitches they receive," and so it is nigh impossible to always be one of the 5%. With rejection such big part of the PR gig, how can we develop a better response to or plan for dealing with the inevitability of hearing "no?" After all, we are all miller's daughters - shrewd and clever, and we can figure this out.

Be honest with yourself

If you take a moment to listen to your gut, you can probably sense a few reasons why this pitch didn't work out. Perhaps you didn't get images from the client until after the ed-cal deadline, or  you still don't have clear shots on a white background. Maybe you got a little too wordy, misspelled the editor's name, or were in a rush and blasted a release without a custom introduction that explained exactly why the product was a great fit for that publication. Take a full inventory and do what it takes to make sure you are in a better position next time.

Remember it's not you, it's the pitch

Even though there are always improvements we can make in media outreach, there are so many outside forces that we cannot control. Yet because we tend to invest so much of ourselves in our media hits and because our professional value is often tied to the coverage that we land, it can be incredibly easy to feel that "no" - or worse, that utter lack of response, like a punch to the heart. Please don't take the no, or the silence, personally. Most often, it has nothing to do with you - perhaps your editor has marching orders to write twelve different articles this week, none of which are a fit for what you sent. Maybe what your pitching is expensive, and they're looking for items at a lower rice point for this particular spread. If you've never worked with this editor before, you're fighting not only to cut through the clutter of hundreds of pitches, but emails from PR pro's this editor knows she can trust.  Whatever it is, keep your head high. It's so not about you.

Ask someone you admire to read your pitch

While you shouldn't go home, pull the covers over your head and watch a few episodes of Parenthood to cry it out, do swallow your pride and ask someone to read what you sent. We all can use other people's eyes on our pitches. Share your pitch with that guy in Consumer Products who seems to be landing stories left and right, or, gulp, your boss. Rejection is part of the game and client coverage is a team effort. Perhaps there is a strategy or subject line that's really working for someone in your office that you can try next time.  Maybe you are so deep into the client brand that you missed a crucial key message that an intern will help you spot when she asks an (obvious to you) clarifying question. I love giving pitches to my PR friends to look over - they are each so talented and have a unique way of organizing information - I learn so much every time I am willing to let them take a peek.

Working in public relations guarantees rejection on an almost daily basis. Hey, if you’re not being rejected, you are not reaching far enough or asking for enough. - Leah Scherschel, SAE, The Alba Group

Ask for feedback directly from the editor

After graciously thanking the editor for her time, tuck in a line that reads something like, "I really appreciate your consideration of this story idea and that you took the time to write me back. I'd love to know what about this pitch/idea/brand wasn't a fit for you, so that I can bring you better opportunities in the future. I don't want to waste your time. Any feedback you have will be invaluable to my client as we move forward together."

Explore different types of media opportunities

So your broadcast pitch isn't getting any pick-up - where else could you look? Perhaps there is a video segment for a lifestyle website or an influential beauty vlogger who might love the idea - and possibly offer an even more targeted audience. If you are tasked with pitching swimsuits in the winter, try publications south of the equator or change up your story angle to be about top celebrity winter getaways. There are always multiple threads to each story and all sorts of media opportunities outside of Vogue and the Today Show. Work those angles.

Let it go

In order to be rejected, you have to put something out there. Just by trying your best and doing something that might feel a little bit scary, you are in fact, already winning. Of course it's not easy to "stay calm and keep pitching," when feel like you aren't getting anywhere. But whether you are sending out email pitches, calling up editors or putting the pressure on a client to do something differently, each time you get a no, you get valuable information that you can use to become a better publicist. In fact, try and be a tiny bit grateful for the experience, because it forced you to grow and get better. So let the experience go, shake it off and move ahead toward your next great pitch.

If you are relatively new to this whole pitching thing, take a look at Pitch Perfect  - it's organized into 10-easy-to-follow-steps to increase coverage and decrease editor rejection!

Photo Credit: BeingMeags

About the author: Crosby


Known as the "fashion publicist's most powerful accessory," (SD-UT) and the "West Coast 'It' girl of fashion PR," (YFS Magazine) Crosby Noricks is a brand strategist, author and founder of PR Couture. Crosby was included in the iMedia 25 Class of 2012 Internet Marketing Leaders and Innovators, and enjoys helping fashion and lifestyle brands connect with their audiences in meaningful and creative ways.

2 Comments

  • Posted June 28, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Excellent article, great advice, points well covered.

    As the EIC of Beauty News NYC and BNLA I get between 200-300 pitches daily, and while I’d like to respond to each one, I simply don’t have the time.
    But to give you some more insight as to where your pitches go, I guarantee you that the unanswered ones we get don’t all get deleted. They often get put into category files and/or they get forwarded to another editor.

    I’m sensitive to what it feels like to not get a response, and so I really try and respond to most pitches, especially if you’re someone I already know. It’s frustrating to tell the publicist in a few quick words that I’ve forwarded their pitch, or am saving it for possible use, and then get back the start of a dialog or round of questions. I silently groan and now feel obligated to write back yet again and I just don’t have the time for this. Or, if I say I’ve forwarded your pitch to our hair/fashion/arts etc editor, I get a response asking for her email contact. Ugh! Why not just look at our About Us page where our editors are listed with a link to their email? Why am I now the 411 operator? I’m sorry if other magazines/sites aren’t as professional as we are and make it difficult (ok, shameless plug for us), but we make it so easy to contact our editors. Just look.

    Want some more free advice for a better response rate to your pitches? Here ya go:
    1. Put the product name & brand in your subject line and what your pitch is.
    Good pitch: Holiday fragrance/hairsyles/sweaters etc from YaddaYadda Co.
    Bad Pitch: Latest Holiday Offerings.

    2. Your pitch should start out w/ the Who, What, When, Where & Why. Once you’ve answered those, you can then give the back story. If you start with the back story, I’m sorry, it gets put in the “read later file” which I often don’t get around to.

    3. Don’t send me pitches that are advertising and try to pretend they’re editorial. If you don’t know the diff between ads and editorial, learn it. That your client is having a sale, a contest, or wants my readers to Like their FB page is 100% pure advertising. I’m happy to post their ads, it’s how I stay in business. You get paid, shouldn’t I? Unless I get support from brands, how can I stay around to give them great editorial coverage? If Little Betty Hobby Blogger posts your clients ads for free, good for her, but we’re not her.

    3. If I respond to your pitch and ask for more info, give it ALL to me in one email. Please don’t make me ask in multiple emails for information. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to write a story and having to look through a dozen emails for a product description, co. info, jpeg, price, retail distribution. If I’m on a tight deadline and I have to look through 12 emails to get 4 pieces of information, then guess what? Sometimes your client’s product doesn’t get included. Sorry. And going back to my subject lines comment: If I decide last minute that your client, the YaddaYadda Belt company has the perfect item for a last minute story that I’m writing at 1:00AM, and I can’t find your email because you didn’t put their name in your subject line then you’ve missed an editorial opportunity. I can’t search for an hour for your email.

    Is this helpful to some of you? Hope so!

  • Kristi
    Posted August 3, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    What’s your thought on brands handling PR directly instead of outsourcing to PR agencies? Agencies tout they have relationships but this is often unsubstantiated. When is it best to bring the relationship building and pitching in-house?

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Meet Crosby Noricks

Hi. I'm Crosby, the founder of PR Couture and a fashion brand strategist. I care about supporting and celebrating fashion publicists as well as helping rad companies connect with their audiences in more meaningful ways. Recently, iMedia included me in their annual list of 25 Internet Marketing Leaders and Innovators, along with people from Starbucks, Twitter and Volkswagon, which I think is pretty neat. Like Elle Woods, I am a Gemini-vegetarian (that's about where the similarities end). Let's connect: Check out my full bio, Brand Elixer sessions or shoot me an electronic communiqué.