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Do not turn your research into an investigation

We are always here to give founders a piece of good advice! But some advice is to be used with caution.

The widely shared wisdom to research your recipients before pitching them can backfire and ruin your chances to build relationships, land a story, or get a new client.

Researching is easier than ever!

"Do your research" is the most repeated PR advice for beginners. Winners claim that the quality of their research is the key to successful pitching. While we believe it's a piece of good advice, and you should definitely follow it, we should warn you about the rising tendency to overdo research efforts.

Social media offers many ways to research journalists and other professionals and use findings to get their attention. Follow a person on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, and you'll have a waste compilation of their life, from what they have for breakfast to how their children do at school. If you're tempted to use some of that information in your message, think twice. You might be blurring the line between thoughtful research and straight-up stalking.

Your research is gone the wrong way when you:

  1. Use personal information about family, friends, leisure activities, or locations. Even if this information is made public by the person themselves, it doesn't mean you can freely refer to it. This information might have nothing to do with their job. You will make a person very uncomfortable by using this knowledge, even if it's for casual, small talk purposes. Craft your pitch with an understanding of who the person is, not with direct reporting about their doings and whereabouts.

  2. Ask for favors you know they did for others. The worst you can do is demand support based on the person's actions towards others. Nothing irritates people more than being manipulated by their own good actions. Even a brief mention of the fact you found somewhere in their postings can sound like pressure.

  3. Decide what people like, care about, or hate. Do not start your message with "I know you like working out, ...". When it's on the safer side of openings, you might not be aware of the full context of the recipient's relationships with sports. Your confidence in someone else's affairs might look ridiculous, especially if you refer to feelings, emotions, and thoughts. "I know you feel angry...", "I know you're thinking about..." -- write that, and you might find yourself blocked from communication forever. You don't know sh*t; let's admit that.

Okay, why bother with research if it's a minefield?

Your task is to stay relevant with your pitch or an offer. You research to look at your pitch with another person's eyes. Why would they care about the news? Is it worth their attention? If you were them, would you accept it? And be honest.

Demonstrate your knowledge in your professional domain, not in precise details of people's lives, and they will be more open to hearing from you.


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