My baby brother has perfect pitch. We found this out when he was about 14 and won a state-wide musical competition for composing a new piano piece without the benefit of ever having piano lessons. He is musically gifted, something I enjoy immensely because I am tone deaf. He wrote a song for my oldest when she was born and I swear it is as good as anything I hear on the radio.
I have perfect pitch when it comes to PR. Well, actually, I am a perfectionist about my pitches – much to the dismay of my clients. It stems from my early days in PR, sitting in meetings with the agency president. She was also a perfectionist and everyone melted under her laser hot scrutiny. I learned early: don’t waste journalists time.
It is a habit that has stuck – maybe too well. I can no longer stomach a flimsy pitch whose only merit is that the client/boss thinks it’s a good idea. Often, clients and employers have a very different idea from journalists of what journalists should be writing about.
What I struggle with is helping clients see the value in communicating news, products, and successes in ways that do not necessarily result in media coverage. Having had great relationships with journalists and truly been a valued source for information, I cannot go back to Hail Mary pitching.
It is bad enough to have a journalist reject you one-on-one, but the idea of being blasted or black-listed online is truly terrifying. I am not suggesting that every PR person should live in fear of being exposed for ridiculous, off-base pitches. I simply suggesting that there should be no ridiculous, off-base pitches.
Part of practicing PR means telling your client that their sales plea is advertorial at best and way off-base for traditional news outlets. As a consultant, you have to stand firm when faced with flimsy internal (and totally unverifiable) statistics that are suggested as a “trend” piece. Working in PR means suggesting that clients use social media to share and speak to customers, not spam journalists.
It’s a tough job – an all the technology we use makes it tougher – but to pitch journalists you need to:
- Read their material on a regular basis
- Understand how they source stories
- Understand the industry/area you are pitching
- Only contact journalists that you *know* will be interested