Seeing a screenshot of one of your pitches with the label #PRFail on Twitter is a mortifying moment that any PR pro would like to avoid. While it can be entertaining to read through a few cringe-worthy #PRFail moments, there are real lessons to be learned from these PR fumbles.

Many times, journalists use #PRFail to vent their frustration at receiving what they deem a particularly bad media pitch or interaction. While these can be uncomfortable to scroll through, these posts offer insight into the pitching standards journalists expect when working with PR pros. This could entail everything from using the appropriate greeting to sending everything in the body of an email, rather than an attachment.

For PR practitioners, these “PR Fails” actually provide valuable insight into how to start building a relationship with journalists.

Targeting the right journalist for a client story is just the first step in the media relations process – and step #1 in preventing your pitch from ending up in the #PRFail Twitterverse. While pitching and creating media relationships is an incredibly tailored and nuanced process, here are our tips to help you avoid a PR fail.

Personalize, personalize, personalize!

Personalization to the journalist cannot be emphasized enough. Every media relations article out there mentions this basic tenet of pitching, and it’s for good reason. In a digital age where connecting with someone halfway across the world is as easy as hitting send on an email, it doesn’t mean that technology should be abused to enact the sin of template pitches.

While you probably have a million things on your list of to-dos, taking the time to research each reporter and customize your pitch will reap more benefits (and coverage for your client) in the end. Valuable insight can be gleaned by spending a few minutes reading their most recent articles and scrolling through their Twitter and LinkedIn profiles.

More importantly, after you gather the right information, while it seems tempting to send out a template pitch using Cision or another email marketing platform, journalists aren’t stupid and know when you’re doing this.

Make follow-ups worthwhile, not annoying

When you have a client story you’re really excited about, it can be tempting to pick up the phone every hour to check in with journalists you’ve pitched. However, just as our days can be filled with multiple client issues, social media emergencies, or content drafts, journalists already get bombarded with outreach.

Rather than following-up with the same information or to confirm receipt, it’s always good to add a new piece of information instead of sending a quick “did you see this?!” note. Show you respect their time by making sure you’re not interrupting them if you do get them on the phone. Journalists get dozens, if not hundreds of emails and calls every day so making the content of your conversation worthwhile should be at the top of your list. Pitching is an art form and sometimes takes a little patience and timing.

Be authentic

There’s nothing a journalist appreciates more than when you can show you’ve researched their beat and understand what they’ve been writing about. Not only will that help ensure that what you’re pitching is relevant, but you’ll start to build a relationship based on trust as they’ll learn to count on you for useful resources. Remember you’re sending an email to another human being, so you should write in a way that’s authentic and true to you without crossing the professional/personal line.

Ultimately, the goal is always to position yourself – and your clients – as a reliable resource for journalists. Using these tips will help you to not only flex your best pitching muscles, but also to begin building valuable relationships. Bottom line – it’ll keep you from becoming the center of a future #PRFail tweet, which can be screenshotted, shared, and commented on for all of Twitter to see.