Perfect PR pitches: Former NYT tech columnist picks his favorites

Critics depend on PR pros for alerts about new product launches. David Pogue identifies two pitches that grabbed his attention.

Editor’s note: We are running this post as part of a look-back at some of our popular stories from years back. This was the most-read PR story in 2011. David Pogue recently joined Yahoo.

Like it or not, PR people make professional critics’ lives possible. Behind every review—of a restaurant, Broadway show, book, or tech product—there’s a PR person whose job it is to notify critics of something new, point out its newsworthiness and get any questions answered.

In my 10 years at The New York Times, I’ve seen a universe of different PR pitches and met an endless range of PR people. Sometimes it’s clear that they love their jobs and believe in the products they represent. Sometimes, it’s clear that they don’t.

Sometimes, it’s clear that they have no idea what they’re doing. (Yesterday, I received eight copies of some guy’s press release.) And sometimes, I have no idea what they’re saying. Here’s an actual press release I got: “[Company Name] Announces Association with Leading Digital Content Creators Offering a Comprehensive Digital Solutions Package from Start to Finish.”

OK, but what are they selling? Turns out it’s mouse pads. (Just kidding. I actually have no clue.)

On the other hand, sometimes the pitches are so wonderful, so delightful, you can’t resist. Here are this year’s winners of the Pogue Perfect Pitch award—pitches so clever, so persuasive, I’m going to wind up reviewing both of the products they’re pitching.

First, a YouTube video made by the employees of a company called CodeWeavers. They have a new program called CrossOver Impersonator that lets you run certain Windows programs on a Mac—without having to own a copy of Windows.

In the video, they address me directly, claim to be big fans. And in keeping with the product name, they’re dressed as, well, crossover impersonators—of Cher and Dorothy (from “The Wizard of Oz”). In the background, employees are posing and interacting with a wall of life-size famous-people cutouts—with my face pasted over each one’s face. You have to see it. It’s hilarious: http://bit.ly/eONTB8

(The company also made nearly identical videos for Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal and three other writers. I figured that they probably recycled the body of the pitch, customizing only the opening lines—”Hello, David Pogue!” “Hello, Walt Mossberg!”—to save effort. The camera cuts away to the company founder, dressed as Dorothy, after the greeting, which would be a good place to hide the splice.

But then I realized—wait a minute! During the body of the pitch, employees are posing with the cutouts in the background—which depict my face during my pitch, Walt’s face during Walt’s pitch, and so on. They actually made the whole video over and over again for each writer!)

What they’re seeking is a meeting with me at the Macworld Expo to show me the new software; unfortunately, I won’t actually be at Macworld. But they’ve got my attention.

The second Pogue Perfect Pitch award goes to Nikon. See, in my blog, I’d written a review of the Canon S95 in the form of a love letter. (“Dear Canon S95, I don’t often write love letters to gadgets. But you—you’re something special. Truth is, I’ve been searching for someone like you for years…”)

To my surprise, I received a response “from” the Nikon D80, the first camera I ever really loved in print, a couple of years ago. There, in my e-mail Inbox, in a sweet italic font, was this (actually written by Nikon’s PR guy, Geoff Coalter):

Dear David—

It has been far too long since our last encounter, and today I found out why. Imagine my horror to find your public proclamation of love for that floozy, the Canon S95, for the whole world to see. You called that little camera “something special?” Well, I remember when I was your one special camera, the one you could come to for anything. Photographing a soccer game? Done. Days at the beach? Easy squeezy. Amazing landscape shots on vacation? You betcha.

Is it because I’m so much bigger than the S95? After our years together, I would think you would accept me for what I am: a highly capable, semi-pro SLR that empowered you to take great pictures. Depth of field, fast burst rate, sharp focus, accurate colors—these are all things only a camera like me can give you.

Let’s not forget all the fun times we had with my friend NIKKOR, who was always willing to go to great telephoto focal lengths to please you. And sometimes our friend Speedlight joined the party to brighten the mood. You talk about physics? I’ll talk about chemistry. You, me, and your 18-200mm VR lens are a perfect match.

But I don’t want to be spiteful. I only want what’s best for you, and I think you are a great match for my cousin, the P7000. She is smaller and more powerful than most cameras, and leads the way for a segment of cameras that is quickly gaining in popularity, the high-end compact. She’s got a cute retro style that everyone loves, and full manual analog controls.

From Your First photographic Love,

Your Loyal Nikon D80

Come on. That’s brilliant. I hadn’t heard of the P7000, but you’d better believe that I’m going to review it now.

Of course, a great pitch doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to win media coverage. Frequently, I write the PR person back to say, “Unfortunately, that’s a little bit out of my territory, but I have to say—what a great pitch!”

But in a business where 50 pitches a day land in journalists’ inboxes, the first job is getting your message across. Congratulations to this year’s Pogue Pitch Perfect award winners, which did so with humor, feeling and effectiveness.

Topics: PR

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