Leading a half-day media relations workshop just last week for communicators from across the country, we challenged them all to make necessary cuts.
They, like all of us, need to cut their media lists. They need to send their pitches and releases to fewer journalists. Really. As soon as possible.
PR is in a crisis of credibility. Journalists’ jobs are disappearing. The ones who aren’t being laid off must work harder than ever. We are making their jobs more difficult by flooding their email inboxes with stuff they don’t care about and will never cover. By doing that, we are wasting their time, wasting our time and wasting the money of whoever is paying us.
Big media lists have always been the window dressing of PR. We’ve heard the rationalizations before. “It’s can’t hurt” to send to so many. Yes, it can. It can hurt your potential for building relationships and brand your employer as a spammer. “You never know,” some will say. Yes, you do know. Do this for 20+ years or even pay attention to the news every day and you can figure out which types of stories are news stories and which are only important to those clogging inboxes.
In preparation for the workshop, we communicated with journalists about the sheer volume of pitches – good, bad or indifferent – that they receive. The numbers were staggering. They get anywhere from 15-200 per day, every day. The vast majority of those appear automated, untargeted and impersonal. We learned of from general managers and publishers, professionals who don’t make daily news decisions, who receive an avalanche of emails. Come on! We even heard from a former DJ – two years removed from Top 40 radio, where he didn’t do news – who was on so many bad lists, he’s still getting up to three pitches a day. From daily beat reporters to TV specialists, they all agree – it’s out of hand. The ease of using a database to assemble a list has caused PR to completely run amok.
It’s long past time to change the paradigm. Cut the lists to focus on quality over quantity. Send your pitches and ideas to journalists who, in the real world, would have a good chance of actually covering them.
And while you’re at it, how about another cut? Cut the used car salesman stuff. “I hope you’re well” to someone you don’t know is right up there with the Monday morning “I hope you had a great weekend!” to someone you don’t know. Lead with the news while sticking to the news and you’re more likely to get some news.