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Friday, April 13, 2007

Pitch Practices: learn them...learn to love them (and then I'll love you)

Rules_graphic_2Dear Sir/Madam/Intern:

My inbox is getting pummeled with pitches. The upside? The industry is realizing the influence of these tremendous communications tools (or I should say the tremendous people behind these tools). The downside? Most of the pitches are deplorable. It confounds me, actually.

If you've received a link to this post in response to your email--as this is far easier than writing it a zillion times--please understand I'm doing you a favor (as most would simply delete your email, but we bloggers are generous beings). I'm also looking out for my colleagues who are likely receiving the same deplorable pitches. You'll find we bloggers really look out for one another's best interests, too.

I appreciate that we're all on a steep learning curve in this brave new blogging world. But learn we must...

If pitching books:

1. There will be NO review sans a read: Don't ask me to promote your book unless I've read your book. I'm not quite sure why this comes across as odd, but so as the NYTimes so too on this blog: I only review that which I can speak to intelligently, and honestly. An FAQ or press kit does not replace a read (and I couldn't respect myself in the morning). Plus, why blow your chance at Book Club, too?

2. Speaking of reading: Please also follow points #3 - #10 below.

If pitching me on anything else be it animal, mineral, vegetable...or digital:

3. Lay off the lines (I get enough of them at bars): Do not try to flatter me by telling me I'm a popular blogger. This does not flatter me, actually it irks me. I don't care about rankings; I care only about relationships that I'm so very fortunate to have made all over the world due to this amazing medium.

4. I'd like a side-order of context, please: At least have a line introducing yourself and why you're contacting me instead of heading straight into"I thought you would want to know about X, Y or Z."

5. Size doesn't matter (isn't that nice to hear for once?): Do not try to impress me by telling me you are from a BIG ad agency, PR firm or Publishing House. Yawn. This little marketer lives, works and thrives in a BIG city all by her itty-bitty self. Big names don't impress me; big ideas and great causes do.

6. Brevity is a beautiful thing: Don't send insanely long emails; pretend there exists a two-paragraph limit.

7. Personalize to realize, baby: At the very least please address me by name; especially being I've made it so very easy for you (it's only 2 letters long, "CK").

8. I can't be bought (well, you can't afford me): This blog does not accept advertising. While I could use the money it wouldn't be worth the price to my soul. Also, I don't accept "stuff" (loaned or otherwise), I only accept books to review for the Book Club...and then I outright buy the books we feature and giveaway review copies because knowledge is only good when it's shared.

9. Do your own dirty work: It never, ever--did I mention never?-- makes sense for you to throw a pack of interns against the pitch process. Even when you write the messaging for them it's obvious when they're replying to my inquiries.

10. Treat everyone with equal weight: Treat citizen media journalists with the same care and level of respect as you do mainstream media journalists...remember, not only do bloggers write for free (another reason to be ultra respectful of their free time), it's many times much easier for bloggers to pick-up and run with a story than it is for the mainstream media outlets. Rumor has it, if we tell one person they tell ten others. And then something like 10,000 new people will know in the course of an hour.

Thank you for contributing to (and not contaminating) this rich medium,

- CK

P.S.: Please tell all your friends ;-).


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We've talked about this -- the low-level person at a p.r. agency who has been given a task and is doing it with little or improper supervision. Part of the problem is if the person supervising is him or herself unprofessional in how they pitch, they'll just pass along bad practices. These are the same people who anger reporters by calling on deadline, throwing stuff at them that's wrong for that reporter, or calling to ask if they received their news release.

Mainstream media or bloggers, the people being pitched deserve professional treatment from us public relations folks.

David: Thanks. In an effort to improve these pitch practices, I decided to create a post so I can send them a link. This way I've done what I can to help us all (as you all are likely getting these same pitches) and I can just send 'em here. Like I said, I'm actually doing them a favor...hope they see it as such (and that they listen).

I love how you posted about this and from now on when you get a bad pitch you can just send them a link to this post. Genius! Or epiphany? ;)

Mack: It's born equally from frustration (aah!) and trying to advance this medium. I have been responding to these pitchers in order to better their practices and help us all. But a post is just far more efficient.

Having wanted to learn about the world of PR, I had picked up one book last winter: Can we do That? by Peter Shankman. Although turned off by a small amt. of egoism, 80% was about ethical behavior and best practices.

Noteworthy was respect for a publishers time, relevancy of message to recipient, personalization, brevity, no email blasts, and straightforwardness. Lastly, building relationships first then having propositions as a someday afterthought...is the best strategy for long term success.

Mario, building relationships with editors (or bloggers) is important. The reality, however, is a PR person simply can't build a relationship with every media person or blogger out there. That's why the items previously cited are so important. I've succeeded with reporters I don't know at all by respecting their time, etc.

No matter how friendly you may be with a media person, if he or she is at a legitimate and respected media outlet they won't use your material if it's off-target for them. Their job is at stake.

ck, do not forget that most of the pitches around have ridicolous remuneration: you lose time two times. btw, welcome back.

I saw your posting from Mack's blog and can't agree more. After being on the agency side for 10 years and now in-house, I believe that some PR basics are just not being followed.

If "low-level PR person" is given the responsibility of media pitching, you're doing an injustice to that person's PR education by not closely monitoring and counseling that person on how to pitch and respond to reporters/bloggers' requests. And if the supervisor isn't providing a good example, then there are larger issues at play at that particular agency!

With regard to David's comment that "a PR person simply can't build a relationship with every media person or blogger out there," I wholeheartedly disagree. The fundamental skills of researching, knowing, and being relevant to your target media are still applicable in any situation.

By putting in the time to do this, you are building a relationship with that person. If you're pitching a media person/blogger on one topic and then disappearing, I would wonder what value is being provided to that client.

You go girl!

Hi CK, your # 1-9 are the Miss Manners 101 of pitches ... thanks for that ... but then I get to #10 and "o my, how am I going to do that?" ... I want to be respectful of my time also, so I would be compelled to pitch to the 'mainstream' before pitching to the 'citizen' if, and here's the key point, I am looking for something (and isn't that the purpose of a pitch?) ... you didn't get to where you are now by making so many mistakes that those around you said "Wow, I should listen to CK!" ... you, and other mainstreamers wear that moniker b/c you deserve it, and you are not equal to us 'citizens' in that regard ... that's a very good thing ... mainstreamers carry more weight in their area of expertise.

Now if the intent of #10 is to say "let us all apply #1 - 9 in our dealings with citizen and mainstreamers alike", I'm 100% in agreement ... then again, does my 100% carry the same weight as a mainstreamer's 100%?

Now if the intent of #10 is to say "let us all apply #1 - 9 in our dealings with citizen and mainstreamers alike", I'm 100% in agreement ... then again, does my 100% carry the same weight as a mainstreamer's 100%?

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