Although it pains me to repeat myself, I post the beginning of an email pitch I received this morning. It’s the perfect example of why I wrote Tip #98: Make it snappy, Sweetheart.
Subject: Everyone loves a good pitch in the morning
Who am I kidding, no one truly enjoys reading a press release; much less being bombarded by them hourly. If you don’t mind hearing mine, then keep reading… and if you don’t, then feel free to click the shiny red X or red circle at the top of the page anytime.
[Our company] is releasing a new service called…
By this point, you’ve lost your audience. Look, it’s your job to pitch. It’s my job to be pitched. So let’s do our jobs — quickly, please — and move on.
As much as I like hearing from the people who make products directly, if you can’t use nice words, have your babysitter — sorry, I mean PR person — contact me instead.
I’ve been assuming that you didn’t cover the email industry because I sent you emails about [our product] with no response. Now I just read your article touting [other products] while ignoring [my product] completely. [etc…]
Do you also report on [this other field]? Our mother company has a better [thing in that field] than [competitors]. I hope that you won’t write a big article about [the other field] that touts only [competitors] as if we never existed.
Please take notice.
It is true that the author of this e-mail, Kvetch McCranklestein (not his real name), did have a point. I glossed over e-mails he sent me in the past and didn’t cover his product. But this is so not the way to make things right when that happens. And it happens all the time. The thing is, even when you’re wronged by the press, it’s rarely in your interest to be snippy with a writer. Remember what your strategic goal is: To get known and then covered by someone who’s disposed to like your product. When you complain like this, you just give writers reasons to look for excuses to not cover you.
In the case of McCranklestein, I actually e-mailed him back, at first admonishing him for his tone. We eventually had a civil and forthright e-mail conversation about how things like this happen. It felt pretty positive.
But I still haven’t covered the product.
When you reach a reporter on the phone, turn on your energy. Smile. You’re selling something, remember? Act like it. Don’t be a downer.
Also, take the gum out of your mouth, don’t make a PR call from a mobile phone, get to the point, etc. Reporters’ ears are highly attuned to tone and effort. When you’re phoning it in, we tune it out.
Avoid carpet-bombing your press releases. That is, sending the same release to everyone in a newsroom. It just creates problems.
First, it makes you look cheap. If you don’t know who to send information to, sending it to everyone is not a good alternative. Do your homework.
And of course, reporters know when a release is carpet-bombed. We carpet-bomb our newsrooms ourselves when we get information that we want someone else to grab but that’s not important to assign to a particular person immediately. But when everyone gets the same release, you end up with multiple internal carpet-bombings. Any impression that the information is precious and worth jumping on is wiped out.
You dilute effectiveness when you don’t focus.
You know when you see a preview for a movie, and then later you go see the movie, and it’s nothing like the preview? You know how annoying that is?
Don’t do that with your product.
Especially don’t have a demo video on your Web service with a concrete example of how your product works that can be instantly verified by a casual visitor to be completely different from how your product behaves for real.
At left, a frame from the demo video hosted on the product's home page, showing the "power words" you get when you search for "House pet." At right, the power words you actually get.
I can forgive you for saying that I’m a freelance writer in your phone message to me. I have been at times in my career. But, “I understand you freelance for Byte,” is beyond amateur. I last wrote for Byte (when I was editor-in-chief — that’s different from a freelancer) in 1996. Cision can’t be that wrong. Byte isn’t even published anymore! I hope you know your clients better than your PR targets.
If you don’t ask me if I want to hear your pitch before you start pitching, then the answer to the unasked question is, “No.”
(Yes, I spent time this week in the demonstrator pavilion at the Demo conference.)
Steve Jobs to bloggers: Shut it down, we need your WiFi. Credit: James Martin/CNET
Our reporters just got back from the WWDC Stevenote. They say that when Steve Jobs said, “All you bloggers need to turn off your notebooks,” to free up WiFi bandwidth, Apple PR reps aggressively demanded that reporters comply.
This is not how the press works, people. You don’t get to shut us down to make your demos work better.
And not like it should play a part in this conversation, but I’ll say it anyway: No reporter worth his or her paycheck relies on either public WiFi nor AT&T’s pathetic data network to cover events that matter. We have EVDO (Verizon or Sprint) for that. You don’t own those. And you don’t own us.
See CNET Reporter Erica Ogg’s story, Even Steve Jobs has demo hiccups.
Many journalists change their “beats,” or topic areas, frequently. It’s more frequent now than ever, with newsrooms shrinking. Editors have to constantly shuffle staff around.
So when you’re pitching, do one last check to make sure the person to whom you’re pitching is still covering your category. You certainly do not score points when you pitch a writer in a topic area they last covered “three beats ago.”