Maybe reporters should do our jobs for a day

Maybe reporters should do our jobs for a day

First of all I’m writing this from the perspective (hopefully) of GOOD PR people who don’t send irrelevant pitches or use cutesy ways to get a journalist’s attention. But for goodness sake, journalists, if I hear one more time that we need to “be a journalist for a day so we really know the job”  I just might lose my lunch. I think journalists should do OUR job for a day and maybe they’d have a little bit more patience.

One of my clients was a print reporter for 20 years before becoming an author. When she started pitching her book to the media, she couldn’t believe some of the things she had to deal with. So at the risk of sounding defensive – ok, I admit I am defending my hard-working peers here – here is my top five list of pet peeves about the media. And just so it’s not too rant-y – I’ve added some things you can do to address these situations when they happen. Alas, I’ve found them unavoidable.

1. “You never sent the book/reel/press kit” Now, I’ve seen the desks of most writers and producers. They couldn’t find their ass with both hands and a flashlight in that mess, let alone some b-roll. When material is requested for consideration or as background for a piece courier it over, or send it Fedex. That way you KNOW it got there. Doesn’t mean you won’t have to re-send it (the record so far is 8 times to a local TV station) but you won’t get blamed for having “poor follow through”, a common media complaint.
2. “I’m angry that I didn’t get this story.” This after you’ve emailed them 4 times and left countless voice messages. It kills me how many editors and reporters aren’t given the proper technology tools to get organized and do their work.  (I know it can be done. Patty Neger, the Executive Producer of GMA can tell you where every piece of information or interesting pitch is in her office at any time.  I would argue hardly anyone gets as much stuff as Patty)
3. “How dare you pitch me that story – that’s not my beat quit wasting my time!” I had a reporter call me screaming one time because she had gotten a pitch from us regarding a new pop/rock band. “I only do fine art and culture” she screamed. “You idiots need to get that through your thick skulls” (this is verbatim) What the reporter didn’t understand was that in Cision (or Bacon’s) which is the main database used by PR folks across the country, she was clearly marked as having a “pop music” beat. I told her she needed to have her employer update the database. If you get this complaint, tell the media person that you can put notes in Cision for everyone to see. (Had this person been nicer I would have put a huge note in there, and helped her avoid more of these unnecessary pitches. Or wait a minute, maybe that would have happened if I were nicer)
4. “Don’t use email software to pitch me I don’t want to be spammed” Okay, just got this one off the Bad Pitch Blog but it’s not the first time I’ve heard it. First of all, PR freelancers work at home…too many emails sent in a day or bounced emails can easily get them labeled as “spammers” and ISP’s will block you. For national campaigns there  may be a few hundred targeted, interested media between radio, TV, bloggers and print. Emailing each individually would take hours. Media shouldn’t be averse to email software…they can easily forever take themselves off the list by clicking on the unsubscribe at the bottom. For that reason alone they should LOVE it! Sometimes journalists don’t know there is an unsubscribe function at the bottom of the email so putting it at the top of your message is a good idea.

5. “If you’re not sending me pitches that are specifically tailored to me and what I do, I won’t read/listen” Guess what – the days of 3 TV networks and a handful of newspapers and magazines are over. Sometimes there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of good strong media channels to pitch. A good PR person will tailor the pitch to a particular channel but unless media reach is in the millions it doesn’t make sense to create individualized pitches. There simply isn’t time. (Something a few egotistical bloggers with 500 visits a month will NEVER understand) Don’t get me wrong – there are lots of times I send a carefully crafted, targeted pitch specifically to one journalist. It’s still probably 75% of what I do.

I agree, there are many, many people out there doing public relations because they think it’s easy. And there are a lot of really bad publicists I know it’s true. And  journalists are definitely under pressure these days even more than before. But we don’t have to do their job to understand. We just need a little bit more patience from the media. It’s not all sunshine and roses on this side of the fence either.

5 Comments
  • Jennifer Kirkwood La Dolce Diva
    Posted at 16:23h, 20 May Reply

    Thanks for sharing with us Bonnie. Good to know you have some frustration too.

    I have paid for tele-seminars to hear how to pitch to media people with 4 or 5 media people speaking.

    With all due respect, they all acted unapproachable. Which is what I guess they wanted. They mocked grammar, typos or other human errors. Wanted to be offered every pitch first. If you didn’t hear from them in a few days you could move on. For God’s sak, “don’t call to see if they got the info or needed more- they know how to dial a phone.”
    They demanded you know their work and exactly what they write about. Admitted they don’t pay attention or like press releases. That they have numerous blogs they read to get information- but still see themselves in the driver seat, as they wrote for actual “real, printed media.” The list goes on.

    They all seemed to want the golden story laid at their feet. Yes, well get in line. Bitter much? Yes, party of one.

    I understand they are bombarded. I “get” that I need to be educated about what they write about- um, in general, not their life’s work. But these 5 seemed to have no good, constructive advice.

    They were asked several times to read an example of a “good” pitch or “clever” pitch that they all seemed to require to even read beyond the subject line. Not one of them could come up with any thing except “you know, one that is interesting and grabs my attention. One where the subject in the email could be the title of the story.” Wouldn’t I BE the writer if I could do all that?

    OK- I am ranting. I am just a small company trying to get attention. I am trying to be responsible in how I approach pitching to the media. I have taken all the things they talk about and tried to be considerate. Maybe I really do think I have a good story or product to give mention. Why do they have to act like they always get the dregs of society pitching to them.

    OK- rant done. Please forgive the typos. I went to art school.

  • waxmarketing
    Posted at 18:26h, 20 May Reply

    I think for so long it’s been okay for the press to criticize us but I think they ought to hear some things from us…after all they couldn’t do their jobs without us!

  • Julie
    Posted at 10:54h, 04 June Reply

    I am new to the game we call PR but I’ve already encountered almost all of the situations you wrote about. It may just be that misery loves company but I found some comfort in knowing that an established PR specialist has been given the same kind of run-around and mild abuse that I’ve gotten. I truly thought it was just me! Glad to find out it’s common practice.

  • waxmarketing
    Posted at 15:41h, 04 June Reply

    Julie you are not alone!! The main thing is not to take it personally. For many of them, it’s just how they cope with an extremely demanding job, unrealistic deadlines and low pay. Plus they often think we make a ton of money so there’s a little resentment there to boot. Do a good job and they will reward you eventually.

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