PR is very hard work and publicity is very hard won. One way to approach your PR effort is to put your self in the editor’s or reporter’s shoes. They have really hard jobs, too. They are bombarded daily with press releases and phone calls from well meaning entrepreneurs who just want a little publicity. And, they are numb from it all.
My friend David Meerman Scott researched and wrote about this process in his blog “Web Ink Now” (http://www.webinknow.com). David interviewed veteran journalist Peter J. Howe, a business reporter for The Boston Globe who unloaded with the following tirade:
“The single most effective thing PR people do is read what I write and send me personalized, smart pitches for stories that I am actually likely to write,” says Howe, who has been at the Globe for twenty years and spent the last seven covering telecommunications, the Internet, energy, and most recently airline companies. Howe prefers to be pitched by e-mail, with a subject line that helps him to know it’s not spam. “‘PR pitch for Boston Globe Reporter Peter Howe’ is actually a very effective way to get my attention. If you’re getting literally 400 or 500 e-mails a day like I am, cute subject lines aren’t going to work and in fact will likely appear to be spam.”
Howe’s biggest beef with how PR people operate is that so many have no idea what he writes about before they send him a pitch. “If you simply put Boston Globe Peter Howe into a Google.com/news search and read the first ten things that pop up, you would have done more work than 98 percent of the PR people who pitch me,” he says. “It’s maddening how many people in PR have absolutely no sense of the difference between what The Boston Globe covers and what, say, Network World or RCR Wireless News or The Nitwitville Weekly News covers. And I don’t mean to sound like a whining diva; the bigger issue is that if you’re not figuring out what I cover and how before you pitch me, you are really wasting your own time.”
Howe also encourages people to try to think big. “If you have a small thing to pitch, pitch it. But try to also think of the bigger story that it can fit into, a page-one or a Sunday section front story,” he says. “That could even wind up meaning your company is mentioned alongside three or four of your competitors, but wouldn’t you rather be mentioned in a page one story than in a120-word news brief?”
There is no doubt that mainstream media are still vital as a channel for your buyers to learn about your products. Besides all the people who will see your company, product, or executive’s name, a mention in a major publication lends you legitimacy. Reporters have a job to do, and they need the help that PR people can provide to them. But the rules have changed. To get noticed, you need to be smart about how you tell your story on the Web. And about how you tell your story to journalists.
Thanks to David Meerman Scott and his reporter friend Peter Howe. I could not have said it better.
Please visit David’s blog at http://www.webinknow.com; it is terrific.
John Bradley Jackson
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