The commonly used word "pitch" can be a disservice to the PR trade. Pitching a story to a reporter assumes there's a catcher (often there is no one on the other end to receive it or the recipient isn't paying attention). Pitching an article idea assumes there is a distance between the pitcher and the catcher. In reality the best PR pitches are those in which the distance between the two players is short.
My colleague Tony Silber wrote a telling blog post for PR News this week on why he eventually ditched a story idea from a PR person and left the situation annoyed rather than nonplussed. The good news for the PR person was that Tony opened the email and considered the idea. That's the first step. But in the end, the pitch was poorly conceived, so the results were even worse than if he ignored the pitch altogether.
The PR industry has gotten considerably better at media relations. There are less bad pitches and more effective media outreach than ever before. As with every profession, there are people who give PR a bad name - "I wish that flack would stop calling me" is a common refrain among journalists and the equivalent of "You smell!" on the school playground. But for the most part, PR is doing a better job at partnering with the media and shortening the distance between the two closely-linked professions.
As the group publisher of PR News, I receive about 15 emails or calls every day from communicators hoping to get coverage in our newsletter or on our web site. In my 17 years with the brand, I am pleased to say that the likelihood of my forwarding those emails or calls to someone on our editorial team is higher than ever. Why is that? It's not because I'm more patient or gullible. It's because many of the story ideas are compelling, timely and designed for PR News. Here are a few pitches I didn't ignore in the last few weeks:
* An interview with the team behind a new social media analytics platform
* The author of a book on morale in the age of cubicles and how "Lean In" will have an impact on telecommuting
* A Q&A with a communications consultant on how the Catholic Church can overhaul its communication efforts
* An interview with a consultant to the cruise industry on crisis management do's and don'ts
* An infographic on the most over-used words in press releases
Additionally, there are countless PR professionals with whom I have developed great working relationships. Over the years, we have had conversations in which no story idea was pitched to me but we shared "war stories" from each other's camps or exchanged observations on a hot topic. If they call or email me, I respond. The distance between us -- pitcher and catcher -- is short.
My colleagues and I won't ignore your pitch if we recognize who you are and your aim is true.