The PR Pitch Dilemma

September 10, 2008 · 8 comments

Jeremy Pepper wrote a post yesterday about how we in the PR biz have become slaves to technology. He believes it’s caused many of us to abandon the phone and in-person meetings with reporters thanks to the ease of email pitches. Lost, he says, are the real relationships that make us valuable and, subsequently, many press clippings for clients.

His post got me thinking. There’s a PR pitch dilemma going on in our industry and reporters and PR people created it.

In short, it boils down to this: Most journalists want to be pitched by email, but a good percentage of pitches are sold only after picking up the phone and calling. So what’s a PR pro to do?

Many reporters these days prefer to be pitched by email. That’s great. But email pitches present two problems. First, we need to know if reporters are interested in a pitch or not. Bosses are asking and clients are asking. Since journalists often don’t reply to most email pitches from PR people they haven’t worked with yet, you have to pick up the phone and ask. Either that or you assume they aren’t interested and report that. But then you look like an idiot if a story shows up two weeks later and the reason the reporter didn’t let you know he was interested is because he didn’t need any further info from you.

Second, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called to follow up on an email pitch I didn’t get a response on and the reporter was interested AFTER we talked. “I didn’t see that email, can you send me more info?” Many of those calls turned into stories for my clients.

See the dilemma? So, I offer a hearty apology to journalists, but if you don’t respond to my initial email, I have to pick up the phone and call. But I promise to only send you emails and give you phone calls when I’ve got an angle I believe is truly newsworthy.

And that’s where PR people have contributed to the dilemma. I’ve heard from several of my media connections that they often don’t see and respond to good email pitches because they get lost in the sea of daily emails they receive, many of which are pitches that are completely irrelevant to their beats, their interests and their audiences. Hopefully, those with the good stuff have the wherewithal to pick up the phone.

Do you see the dilemma? How do you navigate it?

*Image by Dan McKay.

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