Are You Practicing Spaghetti PR?

7 Points to Help PR Professionals Pitch Reporters

Spaghetti PRSpaghetti PR is an unsophisticated form of media relations that gets its name from the process of cooking pasta, which is thrown against the wall to determine when it’s cooked.  With spaghetti PR, a low level PR employee blithely sends out emails that literally start Dear blank and/or calls phone numbers leaving messages that reveal their boredom in hopes of comment with registered press members. Most of the time, these PR representatives have never read my column or the publication for which I write. Even worse, they don’t know much about the company they’re pitching or why I should take the time to meet their senior executives. What surprises me is that they don’t get that if they don’t think that it’s worth their time to know about this company, why should I think it’s worth my readers’ time?

Don’t get me wrong. A good PR person is worth their weight in gold, even at today’s inflated rates. They’re helpful, they know who I am and respond to requests in a timely fashion. As a columnist, I go to people I know or have met, get a referral from a colleague, or try the company’s website (where hopefully they’ve an online press room and respond in a timely manner). Further, from a marketing perspective, PR can be a cost-effective way to engage your prospective audience and build brand.

While adTech has been a source of long term PR relationships, this trade show is a magnet for Spaghetti PR. Request a press-pass and your email inbox and voicemail are quickly filled with Teflon messages.  These mass messages are a huge waste of my time as a writer and their client’s money since they’re quickly deleted.

To help fight Spaghetti PR, here are seven suggestions for media relations professionals. As a professional writer, I am happy to contribute to improving media relations because everyone wins.

  1. Read my columns. With over six years worth of ClickZ Actionable Analysis columns, a PR professional can get a good idea of how I write, the topics I cover, and how I integrate client mentions. In addition, they can check my other work since I write for a variety of other publications and blog on the topic of marketing.
  2. Check my social media footprint. Look at my profile on Facebook and LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter. This’ll give you a good sense of what I am interested in and the types of information that I share with colleagues and followers.  Also, you can determine if we’ve a mutual connection or interest to help you break through the clutter.
  3. Know your client. Take the time to find out what your client does and who their target market(s) is. What media entities and/or bloggers are they interested in talking to and why. What makes your client’s company stand out? If they don’t, help them find an angle so they do. Also, learn how to pronounce both the company name and the executive’s name.
  4. Do your homework. Make my job easier. Come up with some possible column ideas and hooks based on what you’ve found out about me and your client. Before you complain that you’re doing my job, understand that you’re trying to persuade me to write about your client and I’m protecting my relationship with my readers.
  5. Listen to what writers want. I often tell PR and marketing folks to come back to me with some creative ideas on one of the topics I cover.  I’m amazed at how infrequently anyone comes back, let alone with useful information. That said, I’ve gotten a monthly call from an employee of a major name PR firm asking if I would write about her client with no new information or even a reference to one of my columns.
  6. Mind your manners. While this sounds old fashioned, traditional politeness goes a long way especially at a show that’s as crowded as adTech. If you’re calling a journalist, ask if it’s a good time to talk. Determine how the reporter wants to interact with you. Realize that they’re doing a job, just like you are.
  7. Ask how you can be of help. Pay it forward. An agency PR manager followed up when I was developing an online marketing class. He volunteered to get me speakers for my class. Guess who I called when I needed an agency reference? Further, his firm regularly hires my students. What can you do to enhance your relationship with members of the press? Are there other areas where you could work together? Until you ask, you’ll never know.

If you’re pitching the press and/or bloggers, take some time before you do your next outreach and think about some of these tactics. Your goal shouldn’t be to leave a columnist thinking that your client wasted their money hiring you but rather to be willing to take your call or even better to reach out to you when it’s appropriate.  Remember press relations, like other types of relationships, take time to develop.

Are you a member of the press, a PR professional or a marketer? If so, do you have any experiences or suggestions to help others? Please add them in the comments section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Photo credit: Gluemoon via Flickr

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