As a former journalist and editor, who received many PR pitches, I always cautioned young account executives that a “yes” doesn't always mean a “yes” in the pitch and catch game of placing a story.
As in many businesses, there are code phrases. Newcomers have to learn them when dealing with the media. Learning the code lingo of the placement dance is necessary to know when a “yes” means “yes,” and when it might mean “maybe,” or “no.”
So to all who are new to the race for space, here are a few examples of media lingo to help you better understand the code, in a “What They Say, What They Mean” format.
Media Code: Sounds good, can't talk now.
Likely Meaning: Not interested.
Media Code: I'll have to bring it up at our planning meeting.
Likely Meaning: A nice way of saying “no.”
Media Code: Send me an e-mail with a one line summary.
Likely Meaning: Forget about it.
Media Code: Not for me, but I know someone who might be interested.
Likely Meaning: This has a good chance of being used. (But don't spend your bonus check until it actually materializes).
Media Code: Send me more information.
Likely meaning: I'm interested.
Media Code: I have enough information; don't send more.
Likely meaning: Not a chance to dance.
Media Code: Send me everything you have.
Likely meaning: Very interested. (But don't spend your bonus check until it actually materializes).
Media Code: Call me back at 3 p.m. and we can talk further. (When you call back there's a new individual on the assignment desk.)
Likely Meaning: No code-breaking explanation necessary.
Media Code: Interesting, we'll put it in our future's file.
Likely Meaning: Don't grow old waiting.
Media Code: Why do you think this is a good story?
Likely Meaning: Where's the news or feature hook?
Media Code: I like it but I don't think my supervising producer (or editor) will.
Likely Meaning: This is not an idea worth bringing up in our planning meeting.
Media Code: I suggest you watch our show or read our newspaper/magazine before calling us again.
Likely meaning: You don't have the slightest idea of our needs so stop with the calls.
Media Code: Send it to me and I'll see that it gets to the proper person.
Likely Meaning: Don't bother me with this anymore.
Media Code: I need your spokesperson for tonight's show or it won't work.
Likely Meaning: Something has fallen through and they're desperate to fill the segment.
Media Code: Send me some tape showing how your client answers questions.
Likely Meaning: Get ready to celebrate. (But don't spend your bonus check until it actually materializes).
Suggestion: Do your media homework before pitching and you may get a chance to dance instead of a media code reply.
PR consultant Arthur Solomon, a former journalist and Burson-Marsteller Senior VP, can be reached at 914-472-6598 or arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com.