PR Professionals and Journalists: How to Make Everyone Happy
I got a telephone call today at the office from the wife of a certified public accountant. She was pitching me on a story that her husband had just written about the benefits of creating an LLC versus an S-Corp. I listened politely, then told her why I couldn’t run her husband’s obviously wonderful story.
I can’t tell you the number of times I get pitches that we would never publish—not because it’s a bad idea but because it just doesn’t fit in the pattern we have already created.
The magazine I edit is a regional publication that has a pretty narrow focus. We only publish stories that fall within our already established sections. I can’t tell you the number of times I get pitches that we would never publish—not because it’s a bad idea but because it just doesn’t fit in the pattern we have already created.
I often get advance copies of novels and CDs from publishers, authors, and musicians, asking us to please consider reviewing them in our magazine. We have never, in the six years we have been in print, reviewed a book or CD. Never. Yet I keep getting these lovely gifts in the mail on a monthly basis. And I always feel badly—these publishers and public relations people are clearly wasting money on sending me stuff.
In the case of this lovely woman who called me on the phone, I explained to her that we currently don’t have a place in the magazine where such a feature would appear and that we decide upon our editorial calendar 8 months to a year in advance. She proceeded to tell me how it would be a benefit to our readers. I didn’t argue that point—it very well might—but I can’t reinvent the wheel. I suggested that she contact the local daily and weekly newspaper, as they have much more flexibility to publish articles than I do.
Our company also does not accept unsolicited manuscripts—but I didn’t feel like I needed to get into that with her. She was clearly not used to pitching story ideas to the media.
What I wanted to tell her was that if she was going to pitch people her husband’s already-written story, to take a look at some back issues of said publications to see if it’s a good fit or not. If she had looked at ours, she would have seen that we don’t publish stories of that nature. I also wanted to tell her to not introduce herself as the wife of the CPA who wrote this wonderful article that I should publish in our magazine. It’s unprofessional—and of COURSE she thinks it’s a great article…her husband wrote it!
I did a little research online about the relationship between people who work in public relations and journalists, and I found this recent blog post on PracticePR.
Public Relations is about having a good relationship with journalists/bloggers, offering them material they might find useful and helping them get their work done. It is not about your brand, your business or your message. It is about them. Your aim is to give them something they will like and they will be able to use. If your product or story gets mentioned, that is super news. —PracticePR
Now I know a lot of wonderful PR professionals that I thoroughly enjoy working with. If you are trying to get some coverage on your own, there are some things to consider when it’s just not working out for you:
You are not sending them information in a timely manner
The magazine I work for has a great calendar of events section. People love it. And since we are a monthly magazine, we hit the newsstands in the second week of each month. For example: Our May issue was on newsstands in mid-April. The amount of events I get emailed to me for an issue that has already gone to print is astounding. I understand that sometimes things come up that you can’t plan for, but I can’t publish something for you when the magazine is already printed. Plan ahead as much as you can.
You are not sending them information they can use
There is a lot we don’t publish. I mentioned some of them above. When I get things that don’t fit our demographic, geography, or mission, I delete it immediately. If I continue to get things that are not useful to me, I politely ask the person who keeps sending it to me to please stop. I’m sure many people have a master contact list of journalists that they send blanket emails to, but perhaps 1 in 10 of those emails are meaningful to me. Once that name keeps coming up in my inbox over and over again with content that doesn’t pertain to my publication, I stop listening.
You’re not making it easy
Don’t fill your press release or query with a lot of jargon. Keep it short and sweet and tell me what I want to hear. Focus on the five W’s and H: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Why is this story important to my readers? In what section of the magazine do you see this piece appearing? If you are pitching a story about you or your business, what makes you stand out from everyone else that does the same thing? And please, do not send in the story already written for me. When people write stories about themselves it often sounds like a very long ad. If your story is worth telling, the editor will figure out how to share it with their audience.