One of my friends, Kelly O'Brien, was named a "Top Tech Communicator" by PRSourceCode in 2007 for her acumen in pitching technical stories and exemplary work with journalists.
I was happy for her ...
While at the same time secretly worried that if accolades were given for excellent work there might also be a designation for the opposite and a horror show pitch written by a young Steph Johnson might be lurking in the public domain ready to catapult me into the limelight for “the worst pitch on the planet.”
Last week I had an exchange that made me think about this issue again. I used the phrase "editorial opportunity' in a pitch to editor Alan Z. who had just written a blog about why these two words are like nails on a chalkboard to journalists. I didn’t use the term six times like the schlameil he called out in his post, but it was still a transgression.
Every flack worth their salt knows you never start off a conversation by saying “I’m calling to follow up a press release,” and you better as heck know what the outlet covers before you try and pitch your client’s shiniest widget. Beyond that we now have an arsenal of fantastic tools to make sure we don’t try to sell ice to an Eskimo.
It is our responsibility to take advantage of this data…
Before engaging in a dialogue, PR professionals should follow blog posts, check out tweets, investigate Facebook pages and read multiple articles so we understand the pet topics, axes to grind and basic philosophies of our journalists and can develop some kind of rapport with them.
This is not to suggest that personal knowledge is a substitute for what is crucially important in today’s competitive media environment - a strong story based on solid fact with credible third party endorsements, talking end users and an angle that will compel the readership of a particular outlet. However - and as most club bouncers will tell you - building a relationship is important. It won’t necessarily get your ugly friend past the velvet rope, but it could at least help get her closer to the front door!