Readers of this blog know that I have very definite ideas for the right ways and the wrong ways to pitch the media in a Web world. In particular, I feel strongly that non-targeted broadcast email media pitches are spam.
One of the many hats I wear is contributing editor at EContent Magazine, a trade publication covering the digital content industry. Most of my rants about pitching the media are based on my own experiences of people pitching me as well as my former role doing the pitching when I was VP corporate communications for NewsEdge (which was sold to The Thomson Corporation in 2002).
I wanted to learn more about good and bad pitching and media relations from other journalists and spoke to many as I was working on my upcoming book The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to use news releases, blogs, podcasts, viral marketing and online media to reach your buyers directly which comes out in June.
One journalist, Peter J. Howe, a business reporter for The Boston Globe, provided some terrific insights and I have provided some here. (Thanks Peter).
"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 a 120-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.