Think Before You Pitch

By Matter

I originally planned to call this post “Know When to Say When” because if you didn’t know any better you might think that the “guilty parties” involved in this story had actually been consuming some adult beverages before handling dangerous weapons: a keyboard and mouse.

It is a very recent and classic example of how NOT to conduct media relations.

We recently helped a company (not a Matter client) connect with a good media contact of ours for a management column in prominent International daily newspaper. We’d heard about the story from the writer and arranged the interview for the CEO and COO a few months ago. The story appeared last month and it was a positive piece. Both the executives featured in the article and the columnist were quite happy with the outcome.

Incredibly, just two days after the column appeared, the company’s current PR firm – clearly out of the loop – emailed the writer, suggesting an interview for a proposed story in the very column in which its which is client has already appeared. Dumb.

The PR person also thought it was a good idea to include a link to an article from one of the publications’ primary competitors, essentially saying “Another big name media outlet wrote this story… you should too.” Dumber.

Not surprising, the columnist simply ignored the ill-timed pitch. (Nice of him to take the high road)

If the story ended there it would probably just be another example of PR person not doing his or her homework, potentially killing any chance at building a relationship with the writer for future use and becoming the latest poster child for a lack of PR professionalism.

Well, it didn’t end there.

Two weeks later, another representative from the firm wrote a rather lengthy pitch to the very same editor suggesting an idea for the very column which his client had appeared. The pitch was better, but equally off the mark.

Cluelessness?  Desperation? A combination of both?

At the risk of stating the obvious examples like these give communications professionals a bad name. We’ve all heard countless stories of journalists or bloggers complaining about getting spammed by PR people who don’t take the time to think and do a bit of research before they pitch.  Since I had a front row seat to the action, I think any criticism from the writer would have been completely warranted.

So what are the lessons learned here?

  1. Do your homework. Read the work of the reporter, writer, and columnist you are targeting. Then do it again. Be sure you’ve got a solid, well-timed and appropriate pitch before hitting send. In this age of Google Alerts and other great near-real time monitoring tools, there is no excuse for not being on top of what the media is covering – especially about your clients.
  2. Communicate and collaborate.  Whether are on an agency team or an internal PR group, talk to your colleagues to make sure you are not duplicating efforts. Or in this case, stepping on the same land mine.
  3. Understand the difference between being persistent and being a fool. It is not that fine a line. And when you can master this, your clients and your media contacts will respond favorably.