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Gini Dietrich

I Hate PR People: The Rules of Pitching Bloggers and Media

By: Gini Dietrich | February 11, 2013 | 
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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.

It’s rare these days for me to go out with friends without hearing a story of how a PR person didn’t do their research or prepare their client for an interview before a blogger or “social media influencer” was approached.

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

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

The Auto Show

Take the Auto Show, for instance. A handful of social media influencers were invited as media to a dinner and the opening without an understanding of why they were there. From my purview, it looks like the PR people went to the Social Media Club website, downloaded a list of their former and current board members, and invited those people.

No research. No discussion about why each was invited. No review of whether or not they have blogs and if those blogs fit the client’s needs. No expectations set. No client preparation for the interviews. Nothing.

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

Event PR

I get it. I do. 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 many bloggers or journalists, the event is a perceived success.

Even better if all of those people write something, but I know you can’t guarantee that they will, so you don’t.

But it’s not just events. It’s daily pitching that is a disaster, too.

I know we’ve talked about this before and I also realize most of you who read this blog are not the offenders.

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

The Rules of Pitching

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 us to cover.

  1. The online media directories, such as Cision and Vocus, are a starting point. They help you create lists easily and target effectively, but the services do not do the research for you.
  2. Do your freaking research. I get an email at least five times every day that has nothing to do with anything we cover here. One of my favorites of late? Someone wrote an article on Super Bowl advertising, sent it to hundreds of people in the “to” line (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. No more hours of research. But no one uses the Internet. Every, single blog has an “about” page, which typically includes what they write about and how to pitch them. READ THAT.
  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 have 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 me, to show me how many times you’ve sent it to me without response is not charming or enduring. I get hundreds of emails a day. If I want to do something with yours, you will hear from me or Lindsay Bell. 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. If I tell you no, don’t contact Lindsay. And vice versa. 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 has this blog running 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. So don’t go running to Lindsay to beg her to run it, after I told you no.
  7. For the love of all things great, 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 I’m 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 really relevant pitch, send it to only 20 people and have all of them run something instead of sending the same, exact pitch to 2,000 people and have no one run it?

P.S. Everyone wish Lindsay a very happy birthday!

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

315 comments
robin324
robin324

It's frightening the collective disdain that PR pros have garnered, which makes it suck for those of us who are trying to do it the right way. It 's exhausting having to expend so much energy trying to get coverage for our clients in a medium that's going to be used to wrap fish in the next day (newspaper). I teach my clients that they need to Get R.E.A.L to get noticed by being realistic, engaging, authentic, and long lasting (in other words, real) with their clients. And, I teach them that they can get all the visibility they want without ever engaging traditional media.

heatherakemi
heatherakemi

Harsh, but helpful and practical tips for those of us who pitch to bloggers. Thank you for your post!

CathieEricson
CathieEricson

@Soulati @ginidietrich Bad ones make good ones look extra good, but it always makes reporters/bloggers want to ignore most.

fluxresearch
fluxresearch

@wesdavenport @courtenayrogers At this point I've often been covering companies way before they hired their current publicists.

fluxresearch
fluxresearch

@wesdavenport @courtenayrogers Hasn't been so bad for me except for the lack of research.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@stephanies Based on my inbox this week, no...they don't.

brasker
brasker

I Hate PR People: The Rules of Pitching Bloggers and Media http://t.co/yCKjtYGp via @samfiorella "do your freaking research"

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@writingrenee I'm a smart butt (as my mom would say)

gunshotdigital
gunshotdigital

@dbvickery @ginidietrich I think they're pretty smart they are the only ones I can get away without showing actual analytics..:-)

dbvickery
dbvickery

Happy birthday, Lindsay - looks like Gini should be kept from all sharp objects until her frustration dies down. Fun read, though. Glad I'm not in PR and repeatedly asking Gini to run content. And the "end around" generally sets up for a big loss versus big reward - in business and in football!

Canterucci
Canterucci

@ChristianGAdams Clearly relevance isn't common sense.

colbaroo
colbaroo

Now that's blunt “@PublicityGuru: !?!? "I Hate PR People: The Rules of Pitching Bloggers and Media" http://t.co/zyi9qxwe

SusetLaboy
SusetLaboy

@danperezfilms @ginidietrich Yes. The client/pr dynamic is key to preventing hateful pr. Somehow parlaying these rules to clients is key.

jyarbrough
jyarbrough

Gini,

 

I enjoyed your post and can't imagine anyone disagreeing with you that there is a significant portion of the PR industry (for lack of a better term) that has no business doing press outreach or representing any brand/client to the public for that matter. That said, the tips above are pretty much table stakes at this point. I have no doubt that if everyone followed those steps alone the collective reputation of PR people around the world would immediately see a boost and journalists would cry unicorn tears of joy as a result of hundreds fewer emails every day.

 

But even more than improving email etiquette and doing basic research, the PR function (meaning all of us) really needs to get better at basic communication. Why does something matter, how is it relevant to the journalist's beat, what is the opportunity being presented (journos don't want to rewrite press releases; it's a necessary evil but but they hate it). I'm not sure when it became acceptable to simply blast out bits of seemingly unrelated information and pray that something sticks, but the fact that most PR people lack a basic understanding of how to construct a story is sad and pathetic. 

 

I'm not sure what the answer is, but it probably has something to do with agencies training better. A creative writing course here and there wouldn't hurt either. Anyway, thanks for starting the discussion. Hopefully one day soon we'll all be able to talk about how things have improved...

Jevtich1
Jevtich1

@RockChristopher @GetBinkd @mistygirlph Huum! The "lawless internet" back in da day would say: "Summer Rules Mean No Rules."

soundslikerhea
soundslikerhea

@neilglassman @ginidietrich @SpinSucks Thanks! Definitely will keep this in mind!

Yuricon
Yuricon

@tonia_ries @ginidietrich Lack of basic research is what kills me. It's so ridiculous when I get pitches for things way out of my purview.

sweeEkriti
sweeEkriti

@timepass @SpinSucks This is really good. Thanks :)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@robin324 It IS exhausting, isn't it? I didn't realize how bad some PR pros are until we started getting pitches for this blog. You should see some of the bad pitches we get. It sounds like you're doing it exactly the right way. Keep doing that kind of work and you'll continue to have good clients.

stephanies
stephanies

@ginidietrich It's so sad. But bloggers who do nothing but reviews & giveaways foster bad PR pitches, too.

samfiorella
samfiorella

@brasker What? Doesn't blogging = no research required? Or "attributing Wikipedia is research enough?" #pr

writingrenee
writingrenee

@ginidietrich Haha, those rules need to sink in, though! I share those same sentiments on a pretty much daily basis :)

yossoura
yossoura

@AmantMystere LOL lis l'article avant de dire ça

DJFrankieee
DJFrankieee

@iStratBuzz You're quite welcome!! =)

dbvickery
dbvickery

@gunshotdigital @ginidietrich Yikes ;)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @dbvickery Think about this for your business, though. Do you ever have news to announce? Do you guys work with a PR pro? How ashamed would you be if you knew they were pitching your business to journalists and media in this way? It's not good.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@SusetLaboy Which, of course, is sometimes easier said than done. But there are some things PR pros can do with not so good news

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @jyarbrough A creative writing course sure wouldn't hurt! I totally agree with you. I think the issue is that, for a gazillion years, everything stayed pretty much the same. In the past five years, the industry has completely been upended and most pros aren't keeping up. Want to understand how to do blogger relations? Blog. Want to understand how to use social media to engage a group of loyal customers? Use it personally. Want to create a measurable program? Dig into analytics in your own time. Most people won't go to these lengths so the industry is stagnant. 

RockChristopher
RockChristopher

@jevtich1 smile ... yes indeed way "back in the day" ...

aliciakan
aliciakan

@ginidietrich Please tell Lindsay happy birthday!

timepass
timepass

@sweeEkriti i agree, some very sound advice to stick with. @SpinSucks

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@stephanies I suppose. But you still should do your research. I know blogging has taught me so much about media relations.

brasker
brasker

@samfiorella you also don't give your sales a lead outside of your target market, same for approaching influencers and bloggers

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@writingrenee It's so frustrating, isn't it?!?

SusetLaboy
SusetLaboy

@ginidietrich Indeed. And sometimes saying no to a client (no we can't pitch x,y,z to x,y,z) is necessary. Good clients will understand.

Jevtich1
Jevtich1

@RockChristopher Happy Wednesday (to complete the Rhyme conversation) #rhymetime

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@belllindsay! @aliciakan says happy birthday!

sweeEkriti
sweeEkriti

@timepass @SpinSucks This is really helpful.. and so are the comments that follow :)

writingrenee
writingrenee

@ginidietrich Totally. I wrote a similar post trying to convey "if you wouldn't do it on your site, don't do it here!" But alas. People. :)

belllindsay
belllindsay

@ginidietrich @aliciakan LOL - thanks so much! :D

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