My Business receives more than 100 approaches from PR people every week and not many make it into our magazine or onto our website.
Some of the approaches just aren’t right and others are howlers. Here’s a list of the five things that we feel PR companies simply shouldn’t do, so that you can make sure yours isn’t working this way.
1. Not researching target publications
You’d think that a PR person would read the publications they pitch to before they approach a journalist, but the reality is that the majority of approaches are informed by only a passing acquaintance with My Business. The result is approaches that often just don’t reflect what we do in the magazine.
2. No personalisation
The majority of approaches we receive from PR companies are emails, but only a minority are personalised in any way. Most open with “Hi” or “Dear Journalist”. Given that even the Spam we receive tries to personalise its messaging, we feel it is pretty poor that an attempt to win our attention is entirely impersonal on so many occasions. We’ll even go so far as to say that impersonal emails aren’t PR – they’re direct mail and we all know how welcome that is when you open your mailbox at home! Now ... imagine receiving 20 or more direct mails a day ...
3. Using email attachments
As we’ve noted, My Business receives dozens of emails from PRs every week. The ones that get read are the ones that require the least effort to do so – namely those with the text of a press release or invitation in the body of the email. The few seconds required to open an attachments can be the difference between a journalist reading your release and deleting it, so why not just make it as easy as possible for a journalist to read your stuff?
4. Using an outsourced press release distribution service
Press release distribution services are a useful tool, but also make some odd choices. My Business, for example, seems to have been classified as an Australian “business publication” by some of these services and from time to time we get a burst of releases about new mines in Chile or capital-raising on the Danish stock market. Most of these services also default to email attachments. That’s not to say these services don’t have their uses, but between their scattergun approach and attachments we feel emails from these sources are low on the list of sources media trust.
5. Being phone-shy
We’re often amazed at My Business by how often the phone doesn’t ring. We say this because a lot of the ideas PRs try to communicate with us are complex and, we feel, are far easier to share and discuss in real time instead of an asynchronous email conversation. Many journalists we know prefer email – they think it saves time. But if your PR company doesn’t feel comfortable initiating a real conversation with media, you’ve got problems – and often problem number one from this list because your PR team doesn’t know enough about the target to feel confident on the phone.
Bonus item: Follow-up calls
Follow-up phone calls have been the bane of journalists for the nearly 20 years I’ve been doing this. If a journalist doesn’t call after you send a release, it means they are not interested or haven’t yet had time to consider a story. A request to see if the email has arrived just isn’t a value adder to anyone. Having said that, we feel that media should respond promptly to every invitation they are sent. And journalists who pull out of events at the last minute without notifying the hosts are behaving very badly indeed.