Read and Research Before You Pitch, PR People!
@shelisrael: Ancient complaint but why do PR folk think I should write about their clients when they don't take time to read my writing?
I cringed. Shel is absolutely right on this one -- this is an ancient complaint and it is mortifying for those of us who consider ourselves PR professionals to hear this is still happening. It is just not acceptable.
We recently did a training here at the agency in which one section talked about who we work for -- our clients, of course, but also, the influencers. Our relationships with the writers and reporters and analysts and bloggers are a critical part of the value we can produce for our clients. It's our job to protect and foster those relationships as strongly as we protect and foster our relationships with our clients and our employees.
You certainly don't develop a relationship with a journalist or blogger by sending them a pitch that demonstrates -- as it did to Shel -- that you don't read what he's written. And he was kind enough not to "out" the PR person who prompted that tweet. Others will not be so veiled in their criticisms, using social media platforms to castigate the bad pitch or clueless PR person's gaffe.
Shel's tweet was a good reminder that anyone new to PR (hopefully that was the case here) needs to learn the best ways to work with influencers:
- A good first step is to consult a colleague who already has a great relationship with this person. They may be willing to talk to them for you or help you understand how to work with them.
- If you don't have a sage like this available, check to see if the influencer has published guidelines for PR people. The WSJ's Walt Mossberg used to regularly circulate via email a document about what he was looking for and how best to work with him. His AllthingsD.com site has something similar now about each of the bloggers, including Walt, but it's more of a bio combined with an ethics statement. Phil Harvey, editor of Light Reading, went much further in a post that offered PR people the type of information that really helps them learn how to work with him and his publication effectively.
Here's a sample to give you a flavor of the Phil's post:
"If you're a publicist pitching Light Reading, you have a much easier task. For starters, you can get a list of everyone on our masthead and all the stuff we profess to cover right here. I say "profess" because our editors are highly independent and versatile and they're likely to write about whatever damn thing they want, depending on what's going on in the telecom world.
A better idea would be to visit each editor's bio page so you can see EVERYTHING they've done on the site: articles, comments, blogs, videos, etc. On most of the bio pages you will find a working phone number, an active email address, and a social-networking platform where that editor can easily be found, hiding in plain sight. Most of us even have introductory videos on our pages. See how miserable and tired we look?"
I asked Shel Israel via Twitter if he had posted anything about how to work with him. He responded that he's posted about this many times over the years and has spoken about it at PR conferences.
I'm sure he has and that it has been as helpful as Phil Harvey's. The problem is that people who are trying to efficiently research someone before they pitch them need to find this information quickly. If it is in a blog post and doesn't come up when you type in the influencer's name, you have to rely on someone remembering it and sharing the link with you -- which is how I found the Phil Harvey post.
So along with tips for the PR folks out there, I offer this tip to the influencers: Take a page out of AllThingsD's bio/ethics listing for their contributors. But take it a step further toward the Phil Harvey model regarding how you want to be reached, etc., and make it readily available in an "About" section on your blog landing page or on your publication's site. Have it come up quickly when your name is searched. It will save you a lot of time and help educate countless PR people.
- Last tip -for PR people - and there is no substitution for this -- Do your homework. Read the publication or blog and make sure that you completely understand what that influencer is writing and the target audience. If you have not read anything written by a person you are trying to "pitch," don't pick up the phone or send an email or Tweet. You're not ready. You will not be successful. Worse, you are at risk of killing any chance that you, your client or your company has of building a relationship with that influencer.
Preparation is the key to success in most endeavors. Working effectively with the influencers is no exception.