As a journalist I get a lot of mail. I get product samples, I get press releases, I get pitch letters, I get media alerts—and I get a lot of e-mail too, which includes a lot of press releases, pitch letters and media alerts. I also get non-stop phone calls too. This is par for the course and is part of my job. So please don’t think I’m complaining. If you’re a PR professional reading this, feel free to pitch, call and e-mail. Just consider when you’re doing it and why.
Don’t Call After E-mailing: This is something that happens a lot, and it is something that annoys almost all journalists. Please don’t call to say, “hello, I sent you a press release earlier today and I wanted to make sure you received it.” I know this might seem like the most important information in the world, but if the e-mail didn’t bounce back there is a very likely chance I did receive it. Of course you can never be sure, but I’ve gotten calls as quickly as five minutes after it was sent.
No journalist sits around waiting for these things to come in. So asking me if I’ve received it will only get the answer, “yes, got it!” And typically the next question I hear is “did you have a chance to read it.” Well, if you sent it five minutes ago probably not. The bottom line is please don’t call five minutes or even five hours after sending a press release. Given today’s high-tech world if it is newsworthy I probably will see the announcement even if I didn’t actually get the press release.
E-mail, E-mail, E-mail: OK, I might seldom respond. To many PR professionals I might never respond. That’s a simple fact. I actually had a boss when I did work in PR who said, “We need to follow up with the writers because it is their job to write about this stuff.” Since moving to the other side I can tell you my job is to write, but that doesn’t mean it is always to write about “your stuff.”
That said, I want to be pitched on everything. Not every journalist does. In my case I’ll write about consumer technology, consumers electronics, video games, toys, gadgets, travel, lifestyle products, sports and fitness devices, health products, interesting places, military history, antiques and just about anything else I can get my editors excited about. But that’s just me. So don’t pitch every writer at a magazine. Be selective when dealing with staff writers and hit their specific beat. E-mail remains the best way to contact them, but following up occasionally with a phone call is OK too. But e-mail is generally the preferred means to communicate with the press these days.
Watch What Time You Call: I’ve gotten calls at 4 a.m. and I’ve gotten calls at 10 p.m. I answer them because I work from home. My business phone line is the only landline because my wife and I use our mobile phones for all personal calls. I’ve gotten calls from the media at strange times with the response, “I thought I would leave you a message.” If you have something important to say, the worst way to hit any of the press is with a message. It is just too easy to hit delete today. Few of us on the press side listen to messages.
And when calling freelancers consider that many of us do work from home, but we still like to keep somewhat normal business hours too! And never ever send a fax to freelance writers that is set to go off in the middle of the night. (If you ever do that to me I will set my fax to redial your personal line all day! I’m serious I’ve done it!).
Mobile Phones: Another dreaded question is “can I get your mobile phone number.” I typically try to avoid giving out my mobile number. I don’t mind that the press needs to reach me when we’re meeting up at a trade show, conference or other event. But I do typically say, “don’t save my number.”
More than once I’ve gotten PR calls on my mobile with the PR professional saying, “I figured you might be traveling so I decided this would be the best way to reach you.” If that isn’t obvious why this is the wrong way to go, then try calling a journalist on their mobile and see how long it takes for you to get hung up on!
Fax: Only send a fax when requested. While the fax machine is still present in many offices, most journalists don’t bother looking at the fax machine unless they need to do so. And never, ever fax to a hotel unless absolutely requested by the person you’re sending to; most hotels charge a hefty fee to deliver the fax to guests. That’s not a good way of winning over the media.
The bottom line is that the press needs PR departments. I need to receive the press releases, media alerts, pitches and other communication. And if you’re a small business or start up you’re going to have to really stand out. But the key to standing out is to pitch me (and the rest of the media) with something big. I don’t need meet and greets just to say hello. But I do need the facts when you do have something big to say! Be timely, be available and have your materials in order.
A solid PR campaign is the key to success and this includes how you attempt to communicate with the media.