We’ve all gotten those obnoxious emails — you know the kind, the ones with 50 people CCed on them, a generic subject line and absolutely no content that relates to you.
Even more annoying is when the message attempts to be personalized — maybe with a distorted spelling of your name, or even worse, your formal name that no one except Aunt Ida calls you.
It’s called “Spray and Pray,” and it’s an absolutely awful media relations tactic that shoots the messenger in the foot every. single. time.
What in the world is Spray and Pray anyway?
Do you mean besides a terrible idea?
The idea behind Spray and Pray-style public relations is to send out a media release or pitch to as many reporters and editors as possible, as quickly as possible. This might sound antithetical, but it’s lazy.
It’s designed to bloat analytics and meet minimum expectations. You might be able to tell your client that 200 journalists received your pitch but take a closer look — how many people actually opened the email or wrote about it?
You see, Spray and Pray might get your release out to the most people possible, but it does nothing to get it PLACED. And that’s the most important point of a pitch. Surveys show that journalists respond to just more than 3% of pitches.
After nearly 20 years as a reporter, I can confidently say that Spray and Pray is one of the reasons why. Receiving a pitch or a press release in your inbox that has nothing to do with what you cover or what your readers are interested in is a waste of time for a reporter or producer.
That 3% is reflective of too many bad pitches that are poorly executed. The majority of journalists are overworked and under demand to produce engaging content. They want good, quality pitches that will help them write content that no one else has.
You don’t provide that by sending the same tired email to 200 reporters at once.
Know your audience and play to their strengths
There are a lot of reasons why Spray and Pray PR isn’t a smart strategy. But there are three that make it unforgivable.
1. Say my name!
First off, you could be relying on a database that doesn’t have the right spelling or the right incarnation of the reporter’s first name. And when you tell your email program to automatically [insert first name], you have no idea you’ve called Chrissy “Christine” or Josh “Robert” (since he goes by his middle name).
And trust me, as someone spent their career always having the most unique name in the room, that grievance won’t be forgotten.
2. Connections are key
Second, you haven’t made a personal connection with the reporter or you’re cheapening the connection you already have. By sending out a blanket email about how this story is perfect for [insert outlet name], you’ve ignored two basic tenants of a good pitch. One, you haven’t shown the reporter that you have an inkling of knowledge about what they write about or how your story fits with the work they’re currently doing. Two, the vaguities that you think apply to every reporter on your list are doing the opposite — they’re likely antagonizing rather than endearing your potential story to this reporter.
3. Lazy is as lazy does
But finally, the biggest reason why this comes across as a lazy communications strategy is because it is. If you’re doing a Spray and Pray approach, it means you haven’t researched your target audience. Think of pitching a story as a seduction — thoughtful and personal gets you a helluva lot further than a quick, standardized approach. Knowing who your target audience is, what reporter can reach them and why that reporter is the right fit for this pitch will get you a lot further than swiping right on every single reporter who once worked in the geographic or topical area you’re targeting.
Remember — when it comes to distributing press releases, the more is not the metric. Unique, well-researched, good stories will always bear the most fruit. Be personal. Be deliberate. Be authentic.