Reporters and editors are jumping ship to play in the PR sandbox. For the publicists out there that have no idea what they’re doing- how to write a successful pitch, and how to appropriately follow up without being annoying, this should be cause for concern. After all, it only makes sense that a reporter- who knows what works and what doesn’t- would come over to PR and be far more successful than most who’ve been doing this for a while.
Over the past 3 years I’ve been lucky enough to serve as the local shopping expert on my CBS affiliate, and most recently as Fashion Editor for Town Magazine.
The lessons I’ve learned from being on the receiving end of pitches have been invaluable.
1. Read your email carefully
Don’t waste a reporter’s time by asking questions that have already been answered. For example, in each email request I send out for my tv segments – I tell the publicist that I will send a link out to the segment as soon as it airs. Without fail, at least once a month I get an email asking how they will see the segment when it airs. I’m always so tempted to simply highlight the section in the first email where I wrote exactly how they’ll see the segment.
2. Do your own detective work
Nothing is more annoying than someone asking if a story ran when a simple google search or trip to the local newsstand or Barnes and Noble’s magazine rack could have answered that. If you aren’t resourceful you shouldn’t be a publicist. A simple google search will usually do the trick. On occasion if you still can’t find what you’re looking for, than by all means send a follow up.
3. Slow down on the follow up
Don’t send an email to a reporter the exact same day a story is supposed to air or a magazine is supposed to come out. Take a breath. Give it a day or two. Many monthly regional publications might be behind by a couple of days and don’t have their magazines on auto-upload online. Same goes for TV links. Relax.
All of our clients want to know if they’re going to be featured. But you have to realize limitations on journalists’ ends. I respond to every single email once I’ve called in the sample. But when those emails start to become annoying- checking to see if the segment is still going to air, just checking in again- it becomes very annoying. Trust the reporter will do their job and send you the link when it airs. And know that with live tv, anything can happen. Same with print- nothing is a guarantee until you are holding it in your hands.
4. Pitch what is being asked for
If I’m looking for gadgets, don’t tell me about your 6 other “fabulous” clients. Especially when it comes to holiday gifts. You must accept that not every product you represent is a “gift” worthy item. You’re much better off to focus on the clients that truly have a great gift idea, than muddle the whole pitch with products that really won’t work (Bed Bug Spray is not a gift- I don’t care what anyone says).
5. Don’t send unsolicited samples
Bed Bug Spray- I’m talking to you again- no idea who or where you came from, but I did not ask for it.
But, if you say you’re going to send samples, send samples
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been expecting samples that never arrive. I call in just enough for my TV segment that I know I have time to air so if I fall short because I was expecting those samples, I have to scramble to fill the spot. I go back to the same people for TV segments with multiple clients and products because I know if I need samples overnight for an impromptu segment, they can help me out. If you can’t deliver than don’t offer them.
Taryn Scher is President of TK PR, specializing in luxury lifestyle, travel, food, wine and fashion. Taryn’s media achievements include articles and television features in US Airways Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, NPR, Fox Business News, O the Oprah Magazine, The Doctors, Men’s Journal, Real Simple, Time Magazine, People StyleWatch, Redbook and hundreds of others.
Taryn is a regular on WSPA’s “Your Carolina” morning show where she serves as a shopping expert and on WYFF where she hosts a monthly segment called “Schering Secrets”. Taryn is the contributing fashion editor for TOWN magazine. Taryn was most recently named the 2011 SBA Young Entrepreneur in South Carolina.
Featured image courtesy of Erika Astrid Photography. Design courtesy of Yazmina Cabrera, Girl with a Banjo.