In the past 15 years, we've seen an unprecedented change in the way we can research information. For the younger ones in the audience, did you know there was a time when, if we wanted to find out about a reporter in a city far away, we had to request a copy of the newspaper be mailed to us? Yup.
Today, it's as simple as a Google Alert on the reporter's name. Information that used to take weeks and tons of hunting now is as simple as an automated email.
So if that's the case, can I ask why, as in industry, we're getting stupider by the year?
Why are more pitches going out, each day, to more journalists, without the most blatant of connections to the reporters to whom we're sending them?
I propose a “PR Person's Credo.” Let's all print out these simple rules, tape them to the wall, and read them each morning before we pitch. Let's make new PR people read them before they start work for the day. Consider it the “Morning Sh'ma of Public Relations.”
1) I will do my homework and personally pitch specific journalists who 100% fit the story I'm pitching.
2) I will have studied the reporter for at least a week to learn his or her style before I pitch.
3) I will never pitch off-topic.
4) I will never “mass-blast” to a list of journalists I got from any database.
5) I will never, ever BCC reporters and use a generic “Hi!” as my intro line.
6) I will, for the love of God, learn the most basic spelling and grammar rules.
7) I will not start my follow-up, by phone, 20 minutes after sending out my first pitch.
a. Corollary: I won't ever use the phone to pitch a reporter, unless specifically approved by specific reporter in a notarized letter.
8) I will, when the time comes, and it will, screw my courage to the sticking place, and tell my supervisor/boss/client that no, it's not OK to pitch 500 journalists and “hope for the best.”
I'm afraid that the more tools we get to do our homework, the more we can justify laziness on our parts. And that has to stop. Think about it: At first, PR people had to find the reporter manually, then mail - with a stamp - off a pitch, then follow up and hope for the best. Then faxes, then email, and it became easier. Then databases of journalists online, all for the taking.
And yet we still can't get it right.
It's not that hard, people. It's really not.
It's time to get smarter. If we keep going the route we're going, we'll have no one to blame when reporters start batch-blacklisting agencies as a whole. It's only a matter of time.
Let's do all of us a favor: Let's promise to be smarter.
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