Sarah's 7 Deadly PR Sins
As a writer/journalist, I don't hate PR people -- I really don't! We have a mutually beneficial relationship...most of the time. And I honestly don't...mind...the 568 unsolicited pitches that I get in my inbox every day. Honestly. *Eye twitches*
Heh. No, but seriously, I really don't mind the unsolicited pitch emails, or the attempts at social media banter, or any of that stuff -- after all, I know PR people have a job to do, just like I do. And I totally understand that working with surly, frazzled, often insane journalists is probably not the highlight of that job.
But there are some things I just...cannot...even -- CANNOT. Like when you call me at 7 a.m. to follow-up to that pitch you sent me 6 times in the last 24 hours. Or when you spell my name wrong. Come on, now.
I'm kind of hater, so my list is pretty long. But for convenience's sake I narrowed it down to just 7 -- although you know I'm probably going to write another one of these posts in a month or so.
Without further ado, here are 7 things you should not do if you don't want to get blocked, banned, and possibly assassinated by an angry journalist.
1. You spell my name wrong
Seriously? I mean...seriously? My name is Sarah. Now, if I were working in a foreign country with mostly foreign PR people to whom "Sarah" is not a very common name...I would still expect them to get it right. It's literally the first thing I see in your email, and it's super-obvious when you get it wrong. Because, you know. That's my name.
And yes, you should start with "Sarah," not some mangled variation of my last name. My last name is pretty confusing (is it Jacobsson Purewal? Is it Purewal? Is there a dash between 'Jacobsson' and 'Purewal'? YOU DON'T KNOW, SO CALL ME SARAH), so save yourself the trouble.
Related: Getting my publication wrong. Yes, I'm going to be unnecessarily sore about the fact that you pitched me for "PCMag" or "Men's Fitness," because that's just you being hecka lazy.
2. You call me, unsolicited, at any time...but ESPECIALLY IN THE MORNING.
I hate phone pitches. I hate them. They are inefficient, annoying, and they always seem to come at the exact moment when I am catching some Z's. So do yourself a favor and never call me, unless I have explicitly said, "Please call me at this time, on this number." (And yeah, I list a fake number in my email signature, just to thwart those of you who can't help themselves.)
And never, ever call me at 6 a.m. Pacific time. I will literally hunt you down and kill you. Not only am I a night owl (which I talk about all the time, everywhere, on my blogs and social media accounts), it's 6 a.m.! NOBODY WANTS THAT. NOBODY. If you're not sure where I'm located (West Coast, USA), you should at least wait until a neutral time (say, 1 p.m. EST). Or better yet...just don't.
3. You follow up 27 times.
I'm going to be brutally honest here: If you sent me something and I didn't respond...there is a 99.9999% chance that I saw it. However, on the 0.00001% chance that I did not see it (or that I deleted it while half-asleep and checking my mail on my phone), it's okay for you to follow up.
If you follow up more than once -- unless it's to add new information (ACTUAL NEW INFORMATION. USE YOUR BRAIN), I will block you. Swiftly, and with a vengeance.
(Look -- I know PR people complain about journalists not responding to their messages. In an ideal world, I would have the time to click through 382 PR messages every day and respond with a "NOPE," but I have better things to do. And I'm sure you have better things to do, too.)
4. Your expert sucks
I write a lot of articles that require expert commentary. Okay, cool. You the PR person for an expert. Okay, awesome. Let's totally talk about this.
BUT. Your expert better be real, the right fit for my story, and you'd better not be misrepresenting them in any way -- or I will never speak to you again.
I'm not saying you can't pitch me an expert who you think is the right fit for my story, but who ends up being not who I'm looking for -- obviously, I'm fine with that. But please...if my story is about lifting weights for a men's fitness magazine, I pretty much have nothing to say to a "fitness expert" who advocates never lifting more than half of your body weight....ever. (Seriously, I got a pitch like this once. It was absurd.)
And if I ask for a relationship expert with a Ph.D. in psychology or a related field..."accounting" is not a related field. I'm not asking you to do a ton of research and learn everything there is to know about me and my story. Just use your brain!
5. You send me a pre-written article
This one is super weird, but a couple times a month I get emails hawking pre-written articles to publish in one of my publications.
What? I don't even know what to say to this, except, "What the what now?" I mean, you guys know that I'm a writer, right? This mistake is so phenomenally stupid that I literally have no words -- if you do this, I will absolutely block you (and laugh about you with all my Internet buddies), because you need to stop, turn around, and go do something else with your life.
6. You stalk me
I have a pretty public profile -- you can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. without going to too much trouble. I talk about all sorts of things on my social media pages -- I link pictures of my puppies, discuss breaking news, tweet photos of my family, all that good stuff. If you know about that -- that's fine (and maybe expected, in some circumstances).
But when you're pitching me something, and I cannot stress this enough: Use your common sense. You have a French Bulldog and you think my Frenchie, Blanka, is totes adorable? Okay, that's fine -- I post approximately a billion photos of Blanka all over my social media, so that's probably fair game. But when you start using irrelevant personal info from my social networks in the opening paragraph of your pitch...you look just a little creepy. Don't get me wrong -- I know the information is out there somewhere on the Internet, but it's probably best not to let on that you're stalking my every online move and that you have an anthology of my tweets printed out on your wall. Probably.
Also, don't try to add me on social networks if we've never worked together. I pretty much know, when I see your "Public Relations" tag on LinkedIn, that you're just going to try to pitch the crap out of me if I add you. So I'm not going to do it. Send me an email first. Work with me. I still won't add you on Facebook. But I might add you on LinkedIn.
7. Your email consists entirely (or mostly) of a press release
Press releases make my eyes hurt.
There is only one reason I want to see a press release, and nothing but a press release:
a) I asked you to send me a press release
You might be able to get away with sending me a press release if the company you're representing is Google-level major in the industry I cover. (And in the industry I cover...that's Google.) Might. Otherwise, you'd better preface your buzzword-filled nonsense with an actual paragraph.
I know, I know, what's a PR person to do? Stay tuned...next week I'll talk about how you can win over my cold, dead journalist heart <3