PR pro: ‘Why I hate PR people’

Hint: It’s because a lot of them aren’t good at pitching. Follow these seven pitching rules to avoid this author’s wrath.

I hate PR people.

I can say that because I am one, but also because those of you who do blogger and media relations disappoint me—greatly.

These days it’s rare for me to go out with friends without hearing a story of how a PR person didn’t do his or her research, or prepare a client for an interview before approaching a blogger or social media influencer.

In fact, it’s become a game to see who can tell me the worst story. Their ultimate goal is to hear me yell, “I hate PR people!”

Unfortunately, it’s a refrain both my friends and Arment Dietrich team hear a lot.

The auto show

Take the Chicago Auto Show, for instance. Its PR people invited a handful of social media influencers as media to a dinner and the show’s opening without explaining why. From my purview, it looks like the PR people went to the Social Media Club website, downloaded a list of its former and current board members, and invited those people.

The PR team didn’t research. They didn’t discuss why they invited each person. They didn’t review whether the influencers had blogs, and if those blogs fit the client’s needs. They didn’t set expectations, or prepare clients for the interviews. Nothing.

Not only did the bloggers and influencers not understand why they were there (though it sounds like they had a blast-and a free dinner), the clients didn’t know who the bloggers/influencers were, and were not prepared to answer specific questions about the blogger’s expertise or topic.

Event PR

I get it. Your job is to get as many interviews during the show as you can. No one said they had to be good interviews or make sense for the client. As long as the interviews happened and your client was busy talking to bloggers or journalists, the event is a perceived success.

It’s even better if all of those people write something, but you can’t guarantee they will, so you don’t.

The rules of pitching

But it’s not just events. Daily pitching is a disaster, too.

I know you’ve heard this before, and I also realize many of you are not the offenders.

Perhaps you’ll forward this to a friend, or they’ll find it through search. (That means they know they’re doing something wrong and want to fix it, which is a huge leap.)

I’ve put together a list of seven things you must do when pitching a blogger or journalist, no matter if it’s for an event or a story you want them to cover:

1. Know that online media directories, such as Cision and Vocus, are a starting point. They help you to easily create lists and target effectively, but the services do not do the research for you.

2. Do your research. I get emails at least five times a day that have nothing to do with anything my blog covers. Here is one of my recent favorites: Someone wrote an article on Super Bowl advertising, sent it to hundreds of people in the “to” line (he didn’t even BCC everyone), and invited all of us to run it. I guess that PR pro has never heard of Google Panda or duplicate content.

3. Go online. It used to be that we would get out the big, green Bacon’s books, copy a list of people, and then either subscribe to the magazines and newspapers or go to the library and check them out to do research. I remember how exciting it was when everything went online; there were no more hours of research.

But no one uses the Internet.

Every blog has an about page, which typically includes what the blogger writes about and how to pitch him. Read that page.

4. Stop the spam. I swear, if I get one more email that doesn’t have an unsubscribe button, the poor PR pro on the other end is going to feel the wrath of hundreds of poor email pitches built up over time.

5. Stop emailing me multiple times. If I don’t respond, I am not interested. You forwarding your previous email to show me how many times you’ve sent it to me without response is not charming or endearing.

I get hundreds of emails a day. If I want to do something with yours, you will hear from me or Lindsay Bell, the content director at Arment Dietrich. If it’s not well-researched and the pitch isn’t relevant to us, I will delete it without responding. Don’t contact me again.

6. Don’t contact another person from my team if I tell you no. Sometimes I’ll tell you no because the story isn’t interesting to us, or because you want it to run tomorrow and we don’t have space for it. Lindsay runs my blog like a machine. Think of it as a trade magazine. We are a good six weeks out with our blog schedule. Unless it’s how Beyonce’s PR people royally screwed up, we’re not going to push something to make room for your five tips on search engine optimization. Don’t run to Lindsay to beg her to run it after I tell you no.

7. Don’t call me out on Twitter for not responding to your email. My not responding is me being nice. If you get a response from me, either I’m interested or fed up, and you are the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m much nicer than some of my peers. Some will email you and shame you, which is hilarious to all of us that are BCC’d, but not hilarious to you.

As Mitch Joel always says, “If the pitch is relevant to me, it works 100 percent of the time.”

Wouldn’t you rather follow the steps above, create a relevant pitch, send it to only 20 people, and have all of them run something instead of sending the same pitch to 2,000 people and have no one run it?

Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.

Topics: PR

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