This is a guest post from good friend (and former intern!) Jennifer Brett. Read other advice and insights from our friends and colleagues.


PR Tips From Prison


State prisoner #8004652 (number changed to protect privacy) dropped me a line the other day. Journalists often get mail from inmates, who usually have access to newspapers and time on their hands.

My correspondent, who asserts his innocence, would like my help getting in touch with a certain recording star, who he believes will want to help him once she hears his story. He evidently has exhausted his legal appeals and figured the next logical step would be to prevail upon this pop singer.

"You fit in because you write about celebrity news," the prisoner wrote in his letter to me. “If you tell me you are interested in my story, I would be happy to give you some interesting details of (said celebrity).”

I do not act as a celebrity matchmaker for readers, incarcerated or otherwise, and I will leave it to the justice and legal systems to determine guilt or innocence here. But I have to salute this guy in one regard. He did his research and sent his pitch to exactly the right person.

Now let's take a look at some of today's pitches from PR folks, who presumably did not send them from behind bars. (Details changed to protect privacy).

  • "Gain Momentum: Housekeeping Tips for Busy Moms"
  • "Dating for The Newly Divorced"
  • "Dear Sir/Madam, I was wondering if you would be interested in this web site about how to pick small-cap stocks"
  • “Secret Documents Reveal Corporate Attempts to Take Advantage of Taxpayers"

None of these pitches comes at all close to fitting my beat, and that's not hard to figure out. (A two-second Google search produces my Twitter bio, which spells it out pretty clearly: “I am a member of the AJC's Opinion & Insight Team, blogging and tweeting about celebrities in Atlanta and beyond.”)

I don’t know if Prisoner #8004652 has Internet access or if he found me by reading the newspaper, but either way he did a more thorough job of determining the fit for his query. Is there a lesson here for folks pitching from a desktop instead of lockup.


Jennifer Brett has worked in newspapers since graduating from The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She's covered everything. Followw her on Twitter: @AJCBuzz.