This morning, I read an interesting piece by David Segal at the New York Times, aka "The Haggler." David writes a bi-monthly Sunday column about consumer complaints and problems with products. He’s a straight shooter and tells it like it is. That’s why this week’s column, “Swatting at a Swarm of Public Relations Spam,” shouldn’t surprise professionals in the public relations industry. It seems The Haggler has had enough with PR agencies flooding his inbox with irrelevant pitches.
I don’t blame him.
I do, however, take issue with the media relations tactics that some in our industry are using. In fact, I’d like to ask these PR agencies how random, willy-nilly pitching is working out for them. My guess is it’s not.
Media pitching is really about building relationships. Yes, relationships have to start somewhere. We may meet a reporter after they speak at a professional conference. A reporter may call our client for response to a product or industry trend. Or, we might find a selective, specific opportunity to offer a story idea that is relevant to a reporter’s regular beat and interest.
Do your homework. In today’s age of Google, there’s zero excuse for not knowing what a reporter and an outlet covers. For The Haggler, a quick search on the New York Times website brings up years of articles. It would take 30 seconds to know that David probably doesn’t care about your client’s new food truck in Timbuktu.
The most alarming thing, though, was David’s encounter with a company and its PR agency. Apparently, a company executive told him that they don’t have much interaction with its agency, with the exception of bi-monthly clip reports.
Seriously? Where’s the accountability to your client’s business objectives? Media pitching without purpose is a waste of time. In fact, anything without strategic direction is a waste of time. Everything we do has to tie back to a targeted plan that uses PR best practices – including appropriate media relations tactics – to achieve meaningful business outcomes for our clients. End of story.
So, David, I’d like to apologize for the misbehaving of some – though, I believe, scarce – individuals of our profession. And to my colleagues across the country, take a good look at your best practices. Peppering reporters with irrelevant pitches is like counting on the Prize Patrol to show up at your door because Publishers Clearing House sent you some mail.
I wouldn’t wait by the mailbox.