Hey there, journalist, I’m a PR professional with a question.
Why do you hate us?
Yes—I’m really asking you. Of course, it’s not just journalists constantly ripping on our profession. PR people are a running joke in most Web circles.
It seems like every time I sign on to Twitter there is some foul-mouthed tweet bashing our industry. Though I’ll be the first to agree there are some horrible PR
people out there who blast out long, exaggerated pitches to every reporter listed on Cision, PR professionals are, for the most part, good people trying to help
you get out a great story.
Good PR people spend countless hours researching you. By the time I’m ready to pitch you I know where you grew up, where you went to school, how many cats you own, and that you love
sparkle cupcakes. I also know exactly what stories you like to write and how you prefer to be pitched.
Armed with that information, I spend countless hours writing a five-sentence pitch (because that is what you prefer) that includes a description of my client, why it’s worth your time, and most important, why your readers should care.
Know what happens when I hit send?
After you ignore me for a few days, I’ll send a follow-up email checking to see if you missed my pitch—which is usually the case because you receive 47,879 pitches a day. Most of the time, I receive a polite note back from you accepting my request to schedule an interview or telling me you don’t have the time now but might be interested down the road.
For the small percentage of reporters who never get back to us, ignore us, and then turn to Twitter to write about how much they hate us, why don’t you take that time to tell us you’re not interested? Really, it’s that simple. I don’t want to waste my time pitching someone who genuinely isn’t interested. So if you’re not, just let me know. No hard feelings. No passive-aggressive tweets. We have our jobs to do.
There is a good majority of reporters (that I love) who let us know if they aren’t interested in a pitch. They take the two seconds to respond and say “no,” sometimes even “no, thanks.” Then they move on with their day, and we stop pitching them. It’s easy as that.
Why not learn to work together? Maybe help us help you.
I took the liberty of writing some suggestions:
Tell us how to pitch you
As I said, by the time I’ve pitched you, I’m thisclose
to knowing your Social Security number. But not all PR people will be that diligent. If you’re constantly inundated with bad pitches, create guidelines on your site documenting how you like to be pitched, the stories you like to cover, and the pain points your audience faces. I can tailor my pitch exactly for you, or I’ll see your site isn’t a great match, and I won’t bug you.
Use canned responses
” is a handy little Gmail extension that enables you to create response templates to send quickly and without much thought. Why not create one specifically for pointing us PR folk in the right direction? It can be a blanket email highlighting your coverage, as well as your colleague’s coverage.
This can be a great tool for PR newbies who are still learning the media landscape. Providing them a clear-cut example of who does what will surely limit the number of pitches you get that highlight “innovative” new earrings when you cover enterprise software.
Remember the good stuff
Remember that time you were in a crunch and you called us
looking for a story?
Or the Saturday night at 9:30 when you needed me to fact-check stats for a story that was running on Sunday morning?
How about that trade show when you didn’t have time to wait for the CEO to finish talking with someone else and I was your spokesperson who demoed the product?
Please try to remember—because it happened. As much as bad PR people can put a negative spin on your day, good ones often save it.
Here’s what most people don’t realize about PR professionals: We have a passion for telling stories, just like you. That’s why our clients hire us and editors hire you.
Please don’t get me wrong—there are definitely tons of great journalists out there who are a pleasure to work with. But I think we can all be better in maintaining the integrity of the PR/journalist relationships. Instead of railing against one another in social media, maybe it’s time to realize we’re both working toward the same goal. The best way to get there is to respect each other, be clear about our needs, and work together. That’s how our audience wins.
Liz Grimes is public relations manager at Overit Media in Albany, N.Y.