Check out my previous article, 7 Deadly PR Sins for more tips.
Get ready, PR people..it's that time of the month where I, a person who has never done your job, tells you how to do your job!
I know, right? I'm pretty pumped, too.
Let's jump right into this -- as you've probably gathered from previous posts of mine, I have a love/hate relationship with PR people. On the one hand, I know that it's your job to suck up to me. On the other hand, I hate that it's your job to suck up to me. Isn't that nice? You're basically losing my heart before you even meet me.
Sorry, it's just my cold, dead journalist heart talking.
That said, I don't hate all PR people -- far from it, in fact. I am actually friends with lots of PR people, and a handful of them are even PR people that I also work with (LOL! JK! But seriously, though). I even have a special tag for PR people I like in my contacts list (the tag is "PR People I like," I save my creativity for my day job. The tag for PR people I don't like is "Spam").
So how do you get on this coveted list of awesomeness? Here's how!
1. Know what I cover
I cover a lot of stuff. A lot. Of. Stuff. My beat literally runs the gamut from rooting your Android phone to having multiple orgasms...as a guy. From trendy iPhone games to Ford's new Shelby GT350 (just kidding, I didn't cover that, I just drooled at it). I write about practically everything. Heck, I even write about writing. I EVEN WRITE ABOUT WRITING ABOUT WRITING.
So please tell me why I can open up my inbox right now and find a bunch of pitches for products I don't cover? For example...here's a pitch for...diamond jewelry. Okay, I do write about sex and relationships, but this isn't about engagement rings (and I don't write about engagement rings), it's about random diamond jewelry. Seriously? Seriously?? A very quick glance at my website, Twitter profile, or a Google search of my name will tell you that this is not something I am likely to cover. Do some of you PR people just see the word "journalist" or "writer" or see the name of one of my magazines and pitch with abandon? Well, don't do it. I will send you straight to Spam, and I will not help you out by connecting you with some random person who works at a magazine that's loosely connected to mine (e.g. I get a lot of pitches for beauty products directed at Women's Health), because I don't have time for that. And also, I'm mad at you for clogging up my inbox with your nonsense.
Bonus tip: If you're going to pitch me for one of my publications, you need to research my beat within that publication! It's not the same across the board. Also, know this: legalese, common sense, and a desire to stay employed by various editors prevents me from writing about the same product in different publications. So no, I will not feature your product in every publication I work for.
2. Be on top of things
I'm a writer. All the stereotypes you've heard about writers are TOTALLY TRUE. WE ARE CRAZY. WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WE WANT. WE PROCRASTINATE TO THE DEATH AND THEN SOME.
You, on the other hand, are a PR person. Your job basically revolves around being organized and ready to strike. So I'll just put this out there: We will have a much better working relationship if one of us (that's you) is cool, collected, and prepared. I am much more likely to deeply appreciate you as a PR person if you have everything -- press kits, samples, high-res images, press releases, embargoed documents, etc. ready to go, right off the bat. I'll still appreciate you a heck of a lot if you get these things to me within a day of my asking for them. And I will never talk to you again if I ask you to send me high-res images by Monday and you send them on Thursday.
(Note: Obviously, this is all within reason. If I ask you for an overnight sample and you can't get it to me, that's fine, I understand that my request is a bit unreasonable. But if I ask you for something well in advance, or something easy to send, like a press release, and you don't send it to me...I will rage.)
3. You have exclusive stories and/or actual news
There's nothing I hate more than a PR person who lures me with the promise of news and then fails to deliver. Look, I'm a freelancer. It's not that I'm busy...it's that my time is literally money. So if I come to your event, it's because I want to hear news. Real news. Not, "We're showing off this product that we announced in January and released last month. Isn't it pretty?" If you're drinking your client's Kool-Aid and you can't tell what constitutes news, just think of whether the announcement you're making would be interesting to a random person on the street.
Example of something interesting: This product is new!
Example of something not interesting: This product is old! But now it comes in purple!
Another example of something not interesting: This product is coming out in three months! There is nothing for you to write about!
Bonus points if you give me something exclusive to report on, because magazines love that.
4. You write emails like a sane person
Don't try to be cool. You're not cool. And emails are not the place to attempt cool-itude, anyway. Do not ever use a hashtag in the subject line of an email. Ever.
Also, avoid buzzwords. I like emails I can read and understand in less than one second; buzzwords make everything harder to understand because they say nothing.
5. You know when to pitch...and when not to
This is something that should be (and that clearly isn't being) taught in PR 101. The worst time to pitch me a product? THE DAY I WRITE A ROUND-UP OF SIMILAR PRODUCTS. There's a balance to keeping tabs on my beat -- you have to know what I'm likely to write about, and pitch me things that are, well, not what I just wrote about.
For example, I write a round-up of rugged iPhone cases. The next day, my inbox is flooded with pitches about rugged iPhone cases. Wow, thanks guys, because you know what I'm definitely not working on right now? A story that is exactly the same as the story I just wrote, that's what! This is annoying, mostly because it means you, the PR person, are not using your brain.
So here's what you do. Note the story, note who I am, note that I (apparently) write stories like this. Wait six months. Email me and ask me if I'm working on any iPhone case round-ups. I will tell you -- it's not a secret. NOW, PITCH ME YOUR CASES! I know, this requires a few months' planning on your part. But it's worth it, because if you pitch me the day after my case story runs, I will send you to Spam for being stupid.
6. You know what makes a good source
CEOs are the worst sources. I never want to talk to a CEO unless it's a one-person company.
(Good sources: Inventors, engineers, whoever made this thing you're hawking, scientists, researchers, etc.)
7. You never call me
Don't ever call me.
Some bonus tips:
- If you make me go somewhere (an event), have food! Not only do I love food, I'm probably skipping something fun and food-related, like dinner with friends, to go to your event.
- It's super obvious if you're aloof to me until you hear the name of the publication(s) I write for.
- All blast emails are deleted. Unless you're Google. Even if you're Google.
- 99.9% of the time, I have no idea when my story will be published. (And I don't care. I know you care, so Google Alert it, or something.)
- Please stop thinking that publications like PCWorld, Men's Health, etc. are my personal blogs and that I want (or even can) link to your client's random blog post, or publish your client's random article. It would be one thing if you thought a blog I wrote for was a personal blog, but Men's Health? Come on, now.