Despite having the inverse of rose-tinted glasses about the public relations industry, I like to believe that over time we’re improving, thinking that if I write enough of these or enough people boring reporters senseless, maybe they’d be less horribly awful and boring.
From what I hear from reporters – one of which referred to a PR person they’d spoken to in terms I would rather not share, but involved the phrase “treacle-brained” – it’s the same old story. They’re still doing really obvious things they don’t like.
And now Anthony Scaramucci gone, why not talk about other bad PR tactics?
During research for a piece for Vice I was writing, I spoke to many PR people who still took pride in doing things that reporters hate. I want to make it clear: the following three things are things you should not be doing, as at least 25 reporters in the last seven months have said they hate them. They’re not hard! You can get your job done without them! Please, PR people, listen!
Acting Like The Reporter Works For You
Here’re some people that may work for you in a PR job:
- An assistant account executive.
- If you’re senior enough, an assistant.
- A contractor you’ve hired to complete a specific task.
Here’re some people that don’t work for you:
- A blogger.
- A reporter.
- A producer for a TV show.
Despite this very obvious fact, PR people think that if a reporter says they’ll take a look at something or 100% deliver a story on a day that they are by some sort of blood oath bound to deliver the story exactly then. Is it irksome when you’re let down? Absolutely!
The point I’m making is that the several stories I’ve read or had emailed to me about PR people reprehensibly threatening (through blacklists or complaining to their bosses) or attacking reporters for not writing about their clients fill me full of bile. To take a step back, even the PR people who get angry at reporters for saying no in a very polite manner are wrong. Yes, a story may seem perfect for a reporter, but unless you are inside that reporter’s head in the style of Inception, or have taken over their mind somehow, you are not that reporter.
When it’s your job to get a reporter to write something, the most important thing to remember is that their job is to write about things to entertain and inform their readers, and get clicks. If you can find something that’ll interest them, and interest their audience, that’s great news. If they say they’ll cover it, that’s great news. But they’re not legally bound (or contractually bound, or professionally bound) to write about anything.
They Keep Cold Calling
There’s not much else to say. The phone is not the best way to pitch. There’re occasional reporters that may say “gimme a call” and that’s fine – that’s called consent. It isn’t consent to email them and call them and say “hey, did you get that thing I sent ya?”
There are PR people I’ve spoken to who legitimately think that this is okay because it worked once. I want to put this into very plain words – you are not just annoying reporters and damaging an entire industry’s (already weak) credibility but upsetting real, breathing humans. Please, please stop.
They Just Don’t Care
I imagine a lot of you may read this one and say “Ed, I don’t do this!” and if that’s the case, great! If you do this, and say otherwise, please stop lying to yourself.
When I say you don’t care, I mean you do one of the above things I’ve mentioned that’s bad. Or you send large, unwieldy documents that do nothing other than to obfuscate your own failures to clients. Or you spam a list of reporters with no care for whether they have even the smallest bit of interest in the subject in question.
I know this because I still get pitches, for Kickstarter campaigns, for random funding rounds that have nothing to do with me. I add I’m a columnist on Inc, and I write very clearly about very specific things that you can see by reading my writing or reading my Twitter. I also add that I’m a full-time PR person, running an agency, and not a professional writer, or even in most cases a target for your pitch.
The funny part? I don’t think I can remember the last time I actually got a pitch that was written for me. I do however regularly get 500-word spam-pitches intended to spray-and-pray the reporters in question.
I have a crazy idea – why not focus on, say, 10 or 15 reporters, writing a separate pitch for each, based on things they’ve already written? Customize it for them, write it in short and send it?
It works! You do less work, you have more fun because you read, and everyone likes you more!
If you think this about you, but you don’t want to admit it…that’s fine. Good people are here with open arms, to welcome you into the fold of not being horrible, thoughtless pitchers and harassers. Every one of us has cold called or spammed at one point, and we regret and apologize for it every day. You can be better. We can be better.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.