Hey there, fancy journalist, I’m a PR professional with a question.
Here it is: Why do you hate us?
Yes – I’m really asking you! Of course, it’s not just journalists constantly ripping on our profession. PR people are a running joke in most Web circles.
It seems like every time I sign onto Twitter there is some foul-mouthed tweet bashing our industry. While I’ll be the first to agree there are some HORRIBLE PR people out there who blast out long, exaggerated pitches to every reporter listed on Cision, for the most part, PR professionals are good people trying to HELP you get out a great story.
Good PR people spend countless hours doing research on you. By the time I’m ready to pitch you I know where you grew up, where you went to school, how many cats you have and that you LOVE sparkle cupcakes. I also know exactly what stories you like to write and how you prefer to be pitched.
I then take that information and spend another round of countless hours writing a 5-sentence pitch (because that is what you prefer) including the key components of whom my client is, why you want to talk to them and, most importantly, why your readers should care.
Know what happens when I hit send?
After being ignored by you for a few days, I’ll send a follow up email checking in to see if you might have missed my pitch (which is usually the case because you receive 47,879 pitches a day). Most of the time, I receive a polite note back from you accepting my request to schedule an interview or telling me you don’t have the time now but might be interested down the road.
For the small percent of reporters who never get back to us, ignore us and then turn to Twitter to write about how much they hate us, why don’t you take that time to tell us you’re not interested? Really, it’s that simple. I don’t want to waste my time pitching someone who genuinely isn’t interested. So if you’re not, just let me know. No hard feelings. No passive aggressive tweets. We both have jobs to do.
There is a good majority of reporters (that I love) who actually let us know if they aren’t interested in what I’m pitching. They take the two seconds to respond and say “no” sometimes even “no thanks.” They then move on with their day and we stop pitching them. See, easy as that!
Why not learn to work together? Maybe help us help you.
I took the liberty of writing out some suggestions:
Tell how to pitch you: Like I said above, by the time I’ve pitched you, I’m one rock throw away from knowing your social security number. But not all PR people will be that diligent [hey, we have bad eggs, too]. If you find yourself constantly being inundated with bad pitches, create guidelines on your site documenting how you like to be pitched, the stories you like to cover, and the pain points your audience faces. Then I’ll be able to tailor myself exactly for you. Or, I’ll see your site isn’t a great match, and I won’t bug you.
Use Canned Responses: Canned Responses is a handy little Gmail extension that allows you to create response templates to quickly send out without much thought. Why not create one specifically geared toward pointing us PR folk in the right direction? It can be a blanketed email highlighting your coverage, as well as your colleague’s coverage. This can be a great tool for PR newbies out there who are still learning the landscape. By providing them a clear-cut example of who-does-what will surely limit the number of pitches you get that highlight “innovative” new earrings when you actually cover enterprise software.
Remember The Good Stuff: Remember that time you were in a crunch and you called US looking for a story or that time you needed to fact check stats for a story that was running on a Sunday morning and you emailed me to confirm at 9 pm on a Saturday night? Remember that trade show when you didn’t have time to wait for the CEO to finish talking with someone else and I was your spokesperson who demoed the product? Try. Because it happened. As much as bad PR people can put a negative spin on your day, us good ones often save it.
Here’s what most people don’t realize about PR professionals – we have a passion for telling stories, just like you do. That is why our clients hire us and editors hire you. So please don’t get me wrong when reading this – there are definitely tons of great journalists out there who are a pleasure to work with. But I think we can all be better in maintaining the integrity of the PR/journalist relationships. Instead of railing against one another in social media, maybe it’s time to realize we’re both working toward the same goal. The best way to get there is to respect one another, be clear about our needs, and work together. That’s how our audience wins.