Here's another cautionary tale for self-promoters and PR people.

I know that when you or your clients want to be featured in specific media, you'll do almost anything to make that happen. When I was in PR, that meant either using my network to get the right introductions or doing the obvious and contacting the media outlet and asking whom to contact. But more and more folks are taking stupid short cuts that backfire. Take this query I got yesterday for an article on love lessons from soap operas:

We don't have a soap love lesson to pitch, but do have some other great clients and have been looking for an editorial contact at XXXXXXXX. Can you point me in the right direction?

Pleasant, but problematic. Here's why:

  1. The service I used to post the query expressly forbids off-topic pitches. In case you're not clear, a pitch is off topic if it doesn't provide what the reporter wants. If you find yourself using the words "We don't have a [insert query topic] expert, but..." don't send the pitch. More reporters than you think take advantage of the service's black list feature and several PR people and blatant self-promoters have been banned from using the service. TAKE-AWAY: Pitch only if you have what the reporter wants.
  2. Another factor that never occurs to PR people is that most freelancers are loathe to give up their client-side contacts for fear it will reflect badly on them and jeopardize their relationships. I've been with this client for 10 years, so I'm not so worried about that, but it's a real factor with new clients. Acknowledging that could help the reporter like you, which might increase your chances. TAKE-AWAY: Consider the realities for freelancers and acknowledge that you're asking a big favor.
  3. My query noted that I was looking for experts AND fans. I doubt Allie took the time to query her clients to see if she had any soap fans. While this might not have been the most obvious way to get her clients mentioned, it would have gotten the job done. TAKE-AWAY: Actively seek out non-traditional or back-channel opportunities.
  4. Hello!? Doesn't it occur to this person that I'm an "editorial contact" for the outlet? After all, I'm writing for them -- about 36 stories annually, in fact. Seems likely that I could place a lot her clients in my pieces over the course of a year. A better idea would be to introduce herself and share her client list. I LOVE that, btw, as do most reporters. TAKE-AWAY: Leverage the contacts you do have.

Avoid these mistakes and you'll increase the chances of getting the coverage you (or your clients) really want. And here are even more tips:

Oh, and I'm still looking for sources, so email me if you've got a love lesson from the soaps!