Strategy of the Week: For Mossberg’s Column, a Different Pitch Entirely

A product review in Walter Mossberg's Technology column in The
Wall Street Journal is the Mount Olympus for PR pros. But this is
not your typical spiel. Mossberg, whose column runs every Thursday
on the cover of the Journal's "Marketplace Page," is considered in
a league of his own - and a favorable product review in The Journal
(1.8 million circulation) could prove incalculable results. In one
of his recent columns Mossberg gave the thumbs up to Audible Inc.,
which markets audiobooks via the Web. It was the culmination of a
process that Audible started six years ago in which patience - and
carefully picking your spots - is the best PR strategy. Call it the
Un-Strategy. "There was no pitch involved at all," says Mossberg,
in an email exchange with PR NEWS. "They [Audible Inc.] were
surprised when we called them to say we were reviewing it."
Jonathan Korzen, PR director for Audible, first met Mossberg at a
technology conference in 1997 and mentioned the company's product.
"He [Mossberg] had negative things to say about the product that
were well-founded," says Korzen. "We were relieved that rather than
forcing anything on him and getting a bad review, we went back to
work on building a better service." In the interim Korzen would
remind Mossberg about's growth when they met each other
on the technology conference circuit. However, it wasn't until
March 2001, at PRSA's annual conference, that Korzen asked Mossberg
if he would "turn his inscrutable gaze" on Audible. But Korzen
didn't follow up in typical PR fashion. He wanted to wait until the
product was both PC and Mac compatible -- crucial for any
technology product that Mossberg considers for review. When
Audible's product did become PC and Mac compatible in July 2002,
Korzen again reminded Mossberg about the development. The review
ran in early March of this year. So, with a thoroughbred like
Mossberg, you have to make doubly sure that all your product ducks
are in a row - and anything too PR-ish is likely to backfire on
you. "Don't go to [Mossberg] with anything less than a consumer
product that delivers everything it promises," Korzen says, adding
that, "you have to know the likes and dislikes of reporters, and
how they want to work with PR people."