As a PR professional who has pitched some pretty wild things to media over the years, I was intrigued by Zach Schonfeld’s Newsweek article: I Read and Replied to Every Single PR Email I Received for a Week.
“Like most of the journalists I know, I spend about a third of my workday writing articles, another third making bad jokes on Twitter, and another third deleting press releases. It’s not that I’m unappreciative of the PR people who score me interviews and pass along stories—it’s just that there are so frighteningly many of them, and for every inbox blast that’s relevant to me, there are four or five more that may as well be from a Nigerian prince.”
For one week, this music and entertainment reporter committed to responding to every email pitch/news release he received from a PR person. He began his crusade on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and was relieved that even PR people took the long weekend off (for the most part). Come Tuesday after Labor Day, the floodgates opened and the pitching frenzy began.
Schonfeld kept a detailed account of the “hellish week that ensued.” His weeklong diary is both hilarious and eye opening. I particularly enjoyed his daily: Weirdest PR excerpt of the day (“Homeowners who live near the Tappan Zee Bridge will really appreciate USA Insulation’s Premium Foam sound-proofing capabilities”) and Best song I discover all day (“Do You Remember” by Mirage, which is sort of a textbook example of how a video can turn a song from vaguely unsettling to outright terrifying).
All kidding aside, Zach’s experiment is a great reminder of the responsibility that all PR professionals have to make sure we’ve done our homework before we blindly pitch a reporter. While we may get frustrated when reporters rarely respond to our email pitches, we need to keep in mind the volume of pitches they receive every day and how frequently those pitches are completely off target (e.g., sending a pitch on home insulation to a music reporter).
Some tips to consider before embarking on a pitching crusade:
• Research the publication/media outlet and reporter to make sure they’re the right target for your pitch.
• Review the reporter/blogger’s work to glean insights into the types of stories he or she likes to cover.
• Don’t pitch your company or product; pitch a story. Determine how your company or product fits into a bigger trend story.
• Don’t continue to spam the reporter with emails and voicemails; be selective about follow-up, and when you reach the reporter on the phone, be brief and concise.
• Most reporters are engaged on social media. Twitter is a great way to learn what they may be covering that day or week so you can time your follow-up. Consider direct messaging the reporter on Twitter (if he or she is already following you) to cut through the clutter and get his/her attention.