Last week I got a pitch from a PR person related to the magazine industry. (I’m also general manager of Min and Folio:, brands that serve that market).
I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but the pitch was a followup from one the day before, and that one was a followup from one sent two weeks earlier, which I didn’t respond to.
But there was a reason I ignored those e-mails, and perhaps there’s a lesson for PR professionals in an exploration of that reason.
The e-mail was a press release announcing how a supplier to the magazine industry that serves a narrow and declining niche had deployed a new software solution. Essentially it was a commercial.
The writer was very cordial, even after my first two non-responses. So far so good. I know how difficult it is to not get replies, and how you can sometimes get irritable when people don’t acknowledge your work at all. But there were larger challenges. The pitch was for a “case study.” Then it became a suggestion for a “post.”
Those suggestions for format demonstrated a lack of understanding of the mission of my magazine-industry brands. That is usually a non-starter for a journalist. It’s cognitive dissonance. Apples and oranges. Square peg in a round hole. Folio: is about case studies of how media-company operators run their businesses in new and innovative ways. Min is about the people and the community around consumer-magazine publishing.
Neither brand is remotely likely to do a case study or a blog post on how a vendor rolled out a new software capability. For busy journalists, it’s kind of a non-starter. Even if it was a good story and not a commercial for a supplier, it’s hard for the journalist (remember, the mission is to find innovative publishers and write about what they’re doing) to take that press release and think through how it might morph into a story.
It would have been much more effective—though not necessarily successful—for the PR communicator to pitch me with a case study of one of the vendor’s clients, demonstrating how the use of this new software tool helped the publisher doe one of three things: Generate revenue, reduce costs, or work smarter and faster.
My advice to the writer of the e-mail? Help me understand why the press release is a story for me. Read my brands in advance of your pitch. Understand my mission. Be creative in showing me how it’s a story for my brand.
That’s the clearest and smoothest path to publishing your press release. Otherwise, suggest it as a “vendor briefs” item, which is what it was. Unfortunately, neither Folio: nor Min have vendor briefs columns.
By Tony Silber