This post is a cautionary tale for PR people.

On Sunday (Sunday?!), I got six press announcements from a PR person within 28 minutes. Four of them had identical subject lines but were, it turns out, for four different events. It was sent to me, another freelancer (neither of us cover arts, btw), a staff writer who's not been with the paper for over a month, the editor and the managing editor. None, however, copied the calendar editor -- the one person who could actually, you know,USE the information.

But I shouldn't complain. A couple weeks ago my friend Jennifer Brett at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution got an email from a PR person who included 28 attachments.

"Come on, who is going to read all that?" Jen wondered. "I have no idea what the girl was pitching because I deleted her and put her on spam-block without ever reading her avalanche of copy. PR types really need to get hip to how busy reporters are these days, with smaller staffs, a 24-hour news cycle and multiple platforms all heaping more responsibility on us," Jen notes. "PR people should see what happens in a newsroom mail room every day: press kits pile up in the recycling bin, unread."

If you don't want that to happen to your press material, follow these tips from Jen and me:

1. Read, listen, watch before your pitch. Know the reporter's work -- and the outlet's audience -- before you ask for coverage. This will get you the kind of attention you want, and will keep you from wasting valuable professional capital.

2. Get to the point. A few sentences or paragraphs in your message and links to releases, press kit materials, etc., makes it fast and easy for us to scan your pitch.

3. Build relationships with reporters. The most effective PR people get to know the reporters who cover their clients. They send only relevant material, don't waste time, and have an attitude of helping the reporter do her/his job. What a refreshing attitude!

It can be done. Here's a great example from Cheryl Hilpert, an outstanding PR person with The Mergis Group who gets it:
Here's what she got right:

  • On target. Cheryl's done her homework and knows I cover administrative issues for
  • To the point. Her message has a clear main idea and just enough information for me to work with, so I can process quickly.
  • No stuff I don't need. The nifty link to more information makes it easy for me to access if I want it.

Cheryl's a great model for PR people. I encourage you to follow her lead. You'll get more for your media relations efforts, and for your clients.