Here's another entry in my PR hall of shame. If you're a PR person, or a business person trying to get some ink for your enterprise, please read this cautionary tale.
Yesterday I got a pitch from a PR guy I’ve known for years. He always misspells my name (why is this a problem? Read this). He goes on to suggest I cover one of his clients in an upcoming column, which is reasonable. So I write back with three quick questions. Here's the note I got in response. This is the part you really don't want to emulate (though he did get my name right on the second try):
Rule Number 1 of pitching a story: Don't expect reporters to be a part of your marketing team. We aren't here to promote your business or your client. We're here to give useful news to our readers. Expecting us to use your marketing language or help you with your positioning is out of bounds. For instance, when I asked the PR rep if the name of the new business was a nod to the owner's father, I got this response: "Yes but we really don’t want to associate these businesses with each other." Is he serious? Then why did he "associate" them with each other in his pitch? Whatever the reason, his marketing strategy is not my concern. Telling a good story is. And the owner's naming the new store after his dad is a good story in a town where boatloads of people know his dad.
Rule Number 2: Don't tell us what we can and can't use in a story -- especially one you pitch. Trying to control the way a writer reports a story isn't going to get you what you want: the story told your way. In this case, telling me that you don’t want me to mention the owner and that you want me only to quote the manager is a losing proposition. Reporters are going to tell the best story, not necessarily your story. That’s how it works. If you want to control what’s said about you, do a blog or create a newspaper like Intel did.
Rule Number 3: Don't threaten. Some people in the newsroom (yes, we share stuff like this) felt the mere mention of, "advertising both companies currently in [your paper]" was a veiled threat that if I didn't comply with his wishes, the advertising would go bye-bye. I don't know if I agree, but the simple fact that his comment generated that kind of response is reason enough for you to never do it!
For other tips on what not to do (and a few examples of great PR activities) check out the links below:
- Worst practice media relations
- Tips for PR people
- A strong pitch
- Better media relations, again
- Great media relations