Recently while reading my subscription to a popular PR newsletter, a headline caught my eye:
“Biggest PR Mistakes Ever.”
I was shocked to see “never ever call an editor” at the top of the list.
Really? A publicist isn’t allowed to call anyone anymore? Ever? Nevah evah? Wow. That is so incredibly sad.
Before you begin the lecture of “editors get thousands of emails and calls every day…” I know. I get it. PR these days is a new ballgame. The landscape has shifted dramatically over the last 10 (even five) years. But what has this world (and this business) come to if you are never allowed to have that verbal connection with your people?!
Yes, there are crappy publicists out there who will call a journalist and not even bother to ask, “Are you on deadline?” or, “Is this a good time to talk?” And yes, there are publicists who don’t prepare the pitch, and once they get on the horn they freeze up or forget what they were going to say.
I used to teach PR, and I would hammer this into my students’ heads: ”Never pick up that phone to call a media professional if you are not going to show them that you are respectful of their deadline or if you’re not prepared to deliver a short, concise, and compelling pitch.”
This is a great rule for all professions, but it’s worth repeating (because it somehow seems easy to forget): Show others that you value their time and that you respect the tremendous pressure they are under. As much as you feel pressure in your own role, that doesn’t excuse your using bad manners.
Common courtesies aside, I am shocked to read that we should never
call editors. What if you have a really brilliant story idea and the best way to communicate that message is orally?
Then what? There are just some things that cannot be explained by email. The reporter or editor might miss something really special in the delivery; something emotionally riveting or vibrant or funny. (I have lots of those when I’m pitching a sex book.)
As someone who has been pitching for many years (yes, I now have to wear my CVS Pharmacy readers to peruse Gawker), I pride myself on my charismatic delivery—on my imaginative and colorful pitches. Hey, I have embraced all the changes: I tweet, I post, I pin (well, I try), and 99.9999% of the time, I do email my pitches. But if the worst mistake I can ever make as a publicist is to telephone my media contacts, then it’s a very, very sad day for me.
What do you think? If you’re an editor or reporter, please share your thoughts. Do you hate phone calls as much as the industry does?
Andrea Burnett has been a lifestyle publicist in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 20 years. You can find her on Twitter @aburnettpr and on Facebook. A version of this story originally appeared on her blog.