Last week, I attended a webinar by David Pogue, New York Times tech columnist, called “Pitch Me, Baby!”, on how to pitch journalists in the new media world that has changed the way traditional reporters and bloggers communicate. The webinar was promoted as a way to learn the skills PR pros need to effectively reach journalists and bloggers, and persuade them to tell their story.
At the beginning of the webinar, it was comforting that Pogue openly recognized how difficult a PR person’s job can be sometimes, and he suggested the next webinar should be conducted by a PR specialist, teaching journalists on how to behave – ha!
While some of Pogue’s points were fairly obvious, like his point that no matter how interesting your pitch, product, or client is, you won’t get coverage unless you’re a match for what the publication is looking for, others were quite interesting. He started with some quick lists of do’s and don’ts when it comes to pitching:
- Call – it takes far too much time and an email is much more convenient as it leaves a record of correspondence and information
- Blast – make your pitches personal
- Talk like aliens – use plain English to avoid looking insecure, pretentious, or fake
- Make a press release your entire pitch – a press release does not serve as a pitch, need to put in a bit more effort than that
- Taylor your pitch to the reporter – even using his or her first name in the beginning is a good start
- Put the pitch in the body of the email – don’t use attachments
- Be concise – if a journalist has to scroll down to finish reading your pitch, it’s too long
- Summarize your pitch at the beginning quickly – use nice short subject lines that get to the point
- Use English – some programs have an auto-delete email feature that searches for buzz-words
- Include a picture – put this right in the body of the email, don’t make the journalists click through links
- Make it easy to find you for follow up and questions – also, get your companies to put you as their contact for press inquiries right on their site
Pogue’s big take-away point though was to save journalists time! Make your pitches short and to the point, including a link for further information if they’re interested, and make sure they’re on target with the reporter’s audience. Every PR pro should ask themselves, “Why do this journalist’s readers care?” before pitching a story that might not be a fit.
In terms of social media, Pogue mentioned that the new generation needs everything to be in real-time, doesn’t care about privacy, has an ego, and likes instant feedback. His equation resulted in:
Speed + Ego – Privacy = Social Media
At a conference Pogue was recently at, companies were polled and found 119 reasons to not use social media, including a fear of lacking resources and a fear of being slammed. However, Pogue advised everyone to throw these reasons out the window because when you hit the right note, it pays off big time with social media.
Pogue said, when engaging in social media, it’s important to search for your name, company, and clients to keep up with current conversations and then react to what people are saying. He also noted that it’s important to make following you worthwhile by being funny and interesting, without being sleazy (like his example of the Microsoft laptop “bribe” for reviewers).
Finally, Pogue noted that social media is a great tool because it allows you to go straight to the people and removes that layer of separation between the average Joe’s of the world and celebrities or companies. I agree – that is one of the many great attributes of social media and another reason it’s here to stay!