Why I Ignored a PR Pitch

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

  • http://www.moonlightmedia.co.uk John Norris

    Couldn’t agree more. It’s always more effective and informative to describe real-world benefits and ideally provide an example end user rather than use blah and jargon to explain features. I think there’s an old sales maxim “features tell – benefits sell”.
    Unfortunately sometimes the client wants to focus on the features because that’s where their R&D budget was spent.
    Before I send out a release I imagine the recipient reading my press release or pitch and asking two question.

    Q1 – So what ?
    Q2 – What’s in it for me ?

    If I can’t make it interesting and relevant the communication is just wasting everyone’s time.

  • http://www.accelawork.com/ Robby Slaughter

    I am not a journalist nor am I in public relations, but one aspect of this story concerns me.

    Why is it appropriate to ignore messages entirely?

    In other industries, non-response would indicate a lack of professionalism. A simple reply of that “Thanks, but not a good fit” would have been helpful and only taken a few seconds.

    Yes, the person making the sale could have done more research. But it seems like you are complicit as well, since you “are kind of embarrassed to admit…that you didn’t respond.”

    Am I missing something?

  • Heather Ripley

    Robby, I’m a PR professional and a former journalist. They ignore pitches they aren’t interested in because they get hundreds of emails a day. They simply can’t respond to all of them AND write stories.

  • http://www.longviewfibre.com C. Brandon Chapman

    I’ve been on both sides of this, as a journalist, and now currently as a PR guy.

    In defense of the media… while they don’t get hundreds of pitches a day (they simply don’t), they do have to do a lot more with a lot less and don’t have a lot of extra time.

    In defense of PR, WE’RE ALL busier! We also get hundreds of email. Also, when we don’t respond to media, you KNOW they’re calling us “unprofessional” or not good at our jobs.

    So, it kind of goes both ways.

    PR folks need to spend a little more effort (if not time) in making sure a pitch isn’t a waste of a journalist’s time. And journalists, should, when deadline is past, touch base with the PR folks.

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