Every morning, my e-mail routine looks like this: open e-mail, delete, delete, delete... I always need new content for my job as a lifestyle TV reporter but I disregard close to, if not every e-mail from anyone in PR. Oh, and I do that before I even open it. "WHY?!" screams every person in PR ever. Because, people in PR are just like bad dates. Here's why:
1. They shamelessly play the field:
This is the worst offense, they send out pressers to a mass of people and expect you to feel special enough to jump on the story. Those of you patting yourselves on the back for magically inserting the reporter's name in the 'Dear, _________' part of the e-mail, don't get too cocky. There should be some sort of personal touch added to the e-mail about why you think I would be interested in the story in the first place. For example: Instead of 10 paragraphs about a company that makes special fly fishing rods from 90% recycled material...you could try this: 'Hey Mackenzie, I saw your story on fly fishing, it was great! I do PR for a local company that makes rods out of recycled plastic bottles recovered from rivers and lakes, thought you might be interested?'. [This is a made up, but good idea]. I'm not suggesting you make anything up, but you have to be able to find the hook of the story and then just simply say that and nothing else. I don't want to and will not read an entire page of jargon. Tell me about a company the way you would tell your friend. This company is really cool because _____________. No stats or quotes from the company about how great they are will convince me faster than one sentence about why it's 'really cool'.
2. They want you to commit but have trouble committing:
Say I bite -- Me: 'Hey, sounds like a great story, can we do an interview later today or tomorrow?'. PR: 'Fantastic! So and So is really busy, but we could probably squeeze you in for 29 minutes next week'. Excuse me? You're the one who reached out to me, now all the sudden I'm the weird, clingy one in the relationship. Me: 'It would be really great if we could do it this week, I could just drop by during lunch or maybe after business hours, whatever works for you, I can switch my schedule'. Reporters can't help but get and sound desperate because we've been putting our time into setting up this story; if it's not going to be this week then we need to put your story on the back burner and start at square one finding another story/interview for this week. Also, we're going to need more than 29 minutes of your time, always.
3. They leave no room for spontaneity:
When you do book a story and manage to set up an interview they almost always follow up with 'Do you have a list of questions? So and So will want to be prepared, so if you could just send those over that'd be great'. I understand why people want questions ahead of time, but you're the one approaching a reporter about doing a story on this person/company/product. They/It should be so mind-blowingly interesting that whoever is doing the interview will have lots to talk about. Also, the short answer is this: it's basically going to be an interview compiled of whatever is on your FAQ page. Who, What, Where, When and Why? If So and So has trouble answering any of those questions with some personality -- there shouldn't be a press release to begin with. The biggest myth of all when it comes to reporters is that we're out to make you look bad. It's highly unlikely any local reporter is trying to put the spin on a story about your charity run or brand new doggie grooming business. I promise, local reporters aren't getting paid enough to go all TMZ on you.
4. They know nothing about you:
This is a completely personal pet peeve that will most likely make you forget any valid points I've made so far. If someone [reporter] has given you the opportunity to tell your client's story through them and that someone has taken the time to research the company/product etc. so they can ask intelligent questions, then you [and your client] should know who they are and what station/paper/outlet they work for. Nothing will irk a reporter more or at least nothing irks me more than when I show up to a shoot and the person I'm interviewing asks me what station I'm with or what channel does this show air on because 'I don't watch TV anymore'. Let's just break this down real quick: You asked me to come do a story on you/your company or product to put on a show you don't watch or know anything about? At the very least, you should know this information because aren't all reporters trying to spin the story? Come on! I could do a story about your dog grooming business and put it on a reality series about people who have the worst jobs in America. I wouldn't, but I could. Just like with dates, the 'all about me' attitude doesn't fly. You and your client should know something about the outlet you're pitching the story to; if not for those reasons -- because it's just rude not to.
5. They over-correct:
Ever been on a date where the person corrects anything and everything you say while you're in front of other people? It doesn't matter if they're correcting you because 'Actually, it's pronounced _________' or 'That's not 100% true because ___________' both are awful. This will probably drive every PR person reading this right off a cliff because this is your job right? To make sure So and So doesn't misspeak and embarrass themselves and more importantly, the company? I get it, but what you don't get is feeding So and So lines is only making them more nervous and awkward. The best soundbites are not sales pitches. I know you want your client to get every detail right and to really sell it but the thing is, I guarantee you I won't be using those soundbites anyway. They're stiff, have no real heart to them and come off very used-car-sales-guy. Let your clients speak honestly and openly about themselves or the product. Also, people are always so concerned about saying 'Um' but the truth is, that's how normal people speak and editors can edit. It's our job to make you, your client and or product look good; we aren't out to sabotage you. To prove it, I've rounded up the Top 5 Reasons Why Reporters Are Like Bad Dates. Here's why:
1. We're needy and don't ever apologize for it:
When we call we expect you to drop everything and help us, like now! Actually, like 5 minutes ago. 'What are you doing anyway, this is your job right? Oh...PR doesn't stand for personal reporting... assistant?' Well, that changes things.
2. we're stalkers with no shame:
If you don't call us back within two minutes we go into full-on stalking mode. First e-mail [multiple], then Twitter for a public call-out to make sure everyone [including our boss and your boss] knows we have in fact tried to contact you.
3. WE'RE HOT AND COLD WITH absolutely NO WARNING:
We give you the cold-shoulder just because. You have a great story and for whatever reason we're just not feeling it, so we ignore any and every attempt you send our way...because we can. We could pass off the story to someone else, but we don't want to take the risk that it might turn out to actually be a good story.
4. WE NEVER FORGET AND GOSSIP IS OUR 2ND LANGUAGE:
Burn us one time and we'll let any and every reporter know it. 'Oh...So and So? Ugh, she's the worst, you can never get a hold of her, I wouldn't even bother'. Nothing will bring a newspaper and TV reporter or worse, competitors closer than disdain of the same PR person.
5. RADIO SILENCE:
Once we get what we need -- we're done with you. When we need you, we'll e-mail or text you back within seconds; when we've got the story and you want to know when it's going to air, you might as well be waiting for a Carrier Pigeon to fly you the information. You're not getting it from us, we're already busy harassing the next PR person.