Italian cooking experts will tell you that one way to tell if spaghetti noodles are done cooking is to toss a few against the wall. If they stick, the noodles are done. If they fall to the ground, they aren’t. You’ll lose some spaghetti noodles that way, but it’s not a big deal
Unfortunately, too many people in the PR business take the same approach to pitching the media: throw a bunch of pitches to a huge group of reporters and hope that something sticks. A lot of pitches end up going to the wrong reporters. And then those reporters get ticked off. Case in point, a recent rant from Yahoo! Technology columnist David Pogue.
In the hours after rock and roll legend Tom Petty died of cardiac arrest, a PR person for a cardiology institute sent out a pitch offering their experts to talk about cardiac arrest. For some reason, despite the fact that he is a technology columnist, Pogue was one of the targets of this health-related pitch. He took to Twitter to complain.
Pogue’s issue is with the PR pitch itself, saying it was a case of a PR agency trying to exploit Petty’s death. I’m not sure I agree with that take. Plenty of news outlets are interested in using the health issues of celebrities as an opportunity to share information with their audience. In fact, People Magazine ran an article the day Petty died called “Tom Petty Died of Sudden Cardiac Arrest at Age 66-What you Need to Know About the Heart Malfunction. So there is definitely interest in that kind of story.
My issue is why Pogue was targeted with this pitch in the first place. David Pogue covers technology. Not music, not pop culture, and certainly not general health. Why did Pogue get a pitch about cardiac arrest? The most likely answer is someone created a mass list of reporter emails, and for some reason, he was on it. The pitch was blasted to probably thousands of reporters, most of whom wouldn’t be a good fit.
This is especially egregious with Mr. Pogue as he has publicly said that this kind of pitching is one of his biggest pet peeves of PR people. In an interview with Bulldog Reporter, Pogue said
“A lot of PR people and agencies just blast out blanket emails to anyone on the lists they bought. That’s glorified spam. I don’t get the point of it. The emails that work are those that are targeted. They open with something like, “Dear David, I saw your story about cell phones and thought …” This shows they did their homework. If you take the time to personalize your pitches or emails to us, you will get a thousand times more bang for the buck in terms of responses.”
It’s very easy to create a huge list and blast a pitch out to thousands of reporters. At INK, we don’t do that. It’s much harder to create custom-tailored pitches sent one at a time to individual reporters and editors based on what they cover, what we know about them, and what our clients can offer their specific outlet. That’s how we do it at INK. It takes time, it takes effort, and it takes an in-depth knowledge of the media. But we believe it’s worth the time and effort to deliver useful stories to the media, and to deliver real results for our clients.