Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why I write about terrible PR pitches

I've been a journalist for more than 16 years. So I've experienced my share of PR pitches. There have been, as much as I hate to admit it, some really good, useful PR pitches. These have come from PR professionals who understand news, know what makes a compelling story and who understand the company they represent and the products that company produces. They also understand what my paper does, who our audience is and where our market is.

Then there are the majority of PR professionals: like the woman who recently pitched me on a story on how interesting it was that their no-name startup had decied to locate in GASP! GET this! The same city where a bajillion other startups have located over the last 30 years! OMG! In other news from this firm: The sun will come up tomorrow! Can I set you up with an invterview with one of our experts to discuss this?

This woman is, unfortunately, not alone. I have to say, the large majority of PR pitches I receive are pretty bad. Terrible even.

Rather than do what us journalists are compelled to do (make fun of PR people behind their backs), I've decided to give constructive criticism to the PR universe regarding pitches I actually get every day.

So here's the first one:

I got a call today.

"Sharon?" the caller asked.

"No." I said.

"Oh, well who's this?"

I reluctantly said my name, knowing it wasn't going to be good.

"Well great. I've got a pitch about an accounting firm in Southern California expanding. I'm going to send it right over. What's your e-mail address?"

OK, so, a couple of things. Have you ever read my paper? Do you know what I do? Do you know that regional business journals only cover their specific region? And have you ever read any business journal? Because if so, you'd know that our e-mail addresses are listed in every story we do. Right under our NAMES. So if you read the paper, you'd know my name and what I cover: My beats are listed at the END of every story. And you wouldn't have to ask me for my e-mail address. You could just send your out-of-region, never-going-to-make-it-into-my-paper pitch and stop wasting my time.

Or just Google my name. And add the word "email." It comes right up.

Caveat: I got five calls today asking for my e-mail address.

Lesson for today: Find a reporter's e-mail on your own. If you can't do that, well then your problems are too big for me to solve.

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