When dressed in my Twitter garb (@BodyofBreen) I occasionally gripe about… well, a lot of things really. But in this particular instance I’m referring to my #prdonewrong tweets—those bitter pills of reaction to fumbling PR pitches and strategies. In the interest of formalizing those gripes (and purging my spleen in long-form), I offer this short guide to getting it wrong.
1. No, I do not want to talk to the CEO.
Lowly scribe that I am, I’m supposed to be impressed by C-level titles—CEO, CFO, CTO, CAT, CPAP… and even more impressed with your power to clear the hallways of lesser scribes so that I may be allowed to speak directly with these powerful individuals.
I’m just not.
Rather than speak to another business school graduate I’d prefer to converse with someone who actually understands the technology I may write about. I know that whoever chats with me will provide me with the appropriate company spin, but when I ask a technical question, I’d like an informed answer from a person with some clear idea of what’s actually going on under the hood.
2. I can smell it from here.
When you offer me an “expert” who can debunk the latest Apple Product X rumors, that expert had better be Tim Cook. Only those within Apple’s most private inner circle know of Apple’s upcoming plans. The lowly iOS developer you’ve proposed ain’t in that circle.
3. You understand what I do, right?
I know it takes some effort and the investment of five minutes with Google to glean some idea of what I write about, but it could pay off in a pitch that I’d actually respond to. Fascinating though your pitch about solar-powered trampolines may be, it’s not my beat. At the very least, before sending out a pitch for a Windows-only product, note the "Mac" in Macworld.
Along those same lines, when you offer me a pundit to discuss the latest whatever trend, make sure that your pundit hasn’t been reading my stuff to help inform his or her opinions.
4. Embargo. Good word. Look it up.
Two things about embargoes. The first is that they are supposed to be strictly maintained until such and such a date and time. When you offer me the opportunity to “jump the embargo” by publishing your “scoop” early, it hints to me that not only are you not fully cognizant of the word’s meaning but you’re also desperate. Only a desperate person would dangle such a lame and obvious carrot.
Secondly, embargoes are based on agreements. You tell me you have something worth my time (because you’ve paid attention to Point #3) but you’d like to discuss this embargoed information under NDA. I either agree or not. If, instead, you send me this super-secret information and then ask me to keep it under embargo, what’s to keep me from spilling the beans? Oh right, that’s not the point! The point is that I’m so overwhelmed by being the first person to receive this information that I’ll dash it into print. Ha ha, oh tricksy one!
Unless, of course, I see through this gambit and toss it in the scrap heap along with your contact information.
5. When all releases are important, none of them are.
I'm trying to recall when the last time was that I flagged an outgoing email as High Priority.... Oh yeah, it was when I was on-board the Titanic, holding my iPhone aloft, sending my final farewells to my loved ones. Your weekly press releases for some XBox game or yet another iPad case don't measure up to that standard. By marking each release with a big red exclamation mark, you're telling me that each of your releases are of equal importance. All I need to do is glance at one uninteresting sample to know that you're an unreliable judge of what will interest me. All future messages from you are automatically tossed in the trash.
6. Circling back on your circling back.
My sincere hope is that in the next edition of Roget’s Thesaurus the phrase "Circling back" will appear directly after the entry for "Nag." I’m a big boy and if I were interested in your pitch I would have replied. Your “circling back” to make sure your pitch wasn’t “lost in the shuffle” is grounds for divorce. Do it by phone, and I will have Guido and the Boys circle back to you with baseball bat in hand.
I get and grudgingly admire that you’re working very hard for your clients, but I’ve blocked entire agencies based on their aggressive follow-ups and pitches.
7. Yes, I received the product I requested.
If I’ve requested a product or product code from you, there’s a very good chance something will come of it in the form of an article or review. Note, however, that I’m very, very busy. Nothing may come of that request for a month or more (sometimes far more). Weekly “check in” calls aren’t helpful. My own sense of guilt is plenty of motivation. Let that work for you by not counterbalancing it with my natural tendency to be annoyed by your incessant calls.
8. I stopped loving treasure hunts when I was eight.
If you’re going to pitch me, please include your pitch in the body of your email message. I’d prefer to not open three Word documents and nine image files to figure out what you’re peddling. Likewise, if I’ve agreed to review something that would benefit from a lovely product shot or two, make those images available. You might suggest to the company that you’re representing that they include a Press link on their website that contains high-resolution images and press releases.
9. Present well.
Look, Tiffany/Brittany/Miffity, you can’t be blamed for having parents who named you after My Little Pony figurines, but please, before you next pick up the phone, could you record your voice and make sure that every sentence you utter doesn’t end with a question mark? Cuz you know? It makes you sound like you’re 16? And, like, that comes across as really unprofessional? Okay?
10. Be realistic.
If your product really walked on water, people would be gathering in ornate buildings to worship it rather than watching football. Just about nothing is all that. So, tone it down. Tell me what it does and why you think it’s important. Save “game changer” and “X killer” for those times when you’re willing to bet your professional reputation on it.
Because you are.