For more than a decade, email has endured as the preferred mode for engaging journalists in an “earned media” paradigm. Of course, the term earned media wasn’t in the PR lexicon ten years ago. We simply called it media or editorial relations.
|PCNY Panel (8/7): NY Daily News, Good Day NY, HuffPost, WPLJ, Buzzfeed|
As much as has changed in the way story ideas surface in the media, i.e., Twitter, Facebook and other filtered or curated information streams, the journalists who regularly sit on our Publicity Club of New York lunch panels always advise the 120 PR pros in the audience to use email to engage them. The braver of these panelists even go so far as to reveal their primary email addresses.
Still the email inboxes of the most sought-after reporters, editors and producers overflow with hundreds if not thousands of emails a week. This has prompted some news orgs to establish generic emailboxes expressly for PR pitches, i.e., email@example.com, which purportedly are seen by the outlet’s key editorial decisionmakers. (Ping me if you’ve ever had success going this route.)
|New York Times Bits blogger Nick Bilton|
Two years ago, New York Times Bits blogger Nick Bilton lamented in a post:
“My e-mail inbox is a dejected, endless morass. Itâ€™s a desolate wasteland of unanswered messages that continue to appear like a never ending game of Tetris. I can confidently say I hate my inbox and I know Iâ€™m not alone.”
He refreshed this meme last month when he wrote:
“This month alone, I received more than 6,000 e-mails. That doesnâ€™t include spam, notifications or daily deals, either. With all those messages, I have no desire to respond to even a fraction of them. I can just picture my tombstone: Here lies Nick Bilton, who responded to thousands of e-mails a month. May he rest in peace.”
And he’s right when he says he’s not alone. TechCrunch’s Jordan Crook also weighed in on the black hole that has become her email inbox in a piece titled “Be a Bitch on Email or Be Email’s Bitch:”
“Iâ€™ve long hated email. As someone with upwards of 5,000 unread messages at any given time, taking a quick moment to check email is like pushing hot pokers into my eyes. It makes me feel irresponsible and rude every time I see that massive number in bold, yet if I were to diligently read through each email Iâ€™m sent, I would write zero TechCrunch articles per day.”
And yes, folks, we (PR peeps) are the bane of journalists’ existence when it comes to the prospect of reconciling their inboxes. Jordan, to her credit, did not (publicly) suggest that we ignore her. She just asked that we shrink the prosaic fluff down to the bare minimum. She even offered up a before and after. Before:
Hi Jordan, how are you?
I have been reading your past few articles and absolutely love TechCrunch. I noticed you cover a lot of wedding apps, and was wondering what you think of the space? Isnâ€™t it exciting, how tech is disrupting such a valuable and huge industry?
Speaking of, we have a new wedding startup called Wedding Startup. The service lets brides and grooms consult with real wedding planners online for a much cheaper price, cutting out the time and work of meeting in person and checking out real-life items like cakes, china, etc. Itâ€™s sort of like the Warby Parker for wedding coordination. (I saw on your author picture on TechCrunch that youâ€™re a Warby Parker fan! Me too!)
Since the wedding planners can simply send over ideas and bundle certain options for the bride Let me know if any of this sounds interesting to you. Our CEO, Bob Marriage, is available to chat on the phone today and tomorrow. He also loves TechCrunch. I can also send you screen grabs and more detailed information if youâ€™d like.
Again, thank you so much for considering. We canâ€™t express how excited we are to potentially be featured on the site.
Best, PR LADY
PS. Where did you eat last night? The pictures you tweeted look like you had some delicious food!
Instead, an SMS version of this pitch would be:
Hey Jordan. Hereâ€™s our new wedding startup launching today. Link: http://www.theconcisepitch.com. It puts real wedding planners online to save time and cut costs. Like the Warby Parker of wedding planning. LMK if you want anything further.
To make matters worse for those PR pros praying, hoping that their email overtures will be noticed amidst the hundreds of other crying out for a click is the fact that you simply don’t know the fate of your pitch after you send it. I do have some relief thanks to ToutApp, which offers some sense of whether the email even had a gander. After all, we just want resolution – good, bad or ugly!
Ironically one magazine editor on a recent PCNY lunch panel groused that she never hears from PR people by phone. Huh? You mean, the telephone? Yes. That’s exactly what she meant…with the right story, the right reporter and the right time of day. She actually encouraged the audience to call her.
Aaron Kwitken, principal at Kwittken & Co. and “a fan of email,” also encouraged the use of the phone for questions or info sharing “you have to think twice about.” Here’s a video clip from 30 Second MBA:
Anjali Mulanny, in a Fast Company piece this week titled “Call Me (Or Email Me), Maybe?” weighed in with this:
I feel bombarded by email and haven’t known that phenomenon called “Inbox Zero” in years, so I don’t like to be the person who is adding to someone else’s Outlook landslide. Also, it’s very difficult to convey tone and nuance in a work-related email. If I feel that the other person might take offense at what I need to say, I try to use the phone whenever possible.
That said, email is so convenient–I can get through a slew of emails as I’m waiting in line for my coffee, or on the subway during my commute to work. I’ve also found that many people (I’m one of them) don’t check their office voice mail as often as they check their email. And, I find it’s easier to have notes from a conversation stored in my inbox than it is to take notes during a phone call.
If you endeavor to use the phone in pitching a reporter, be sure to fully identify yourself at the outset of the call and be uber-brief, i.e., don’t drone on without giving the reporter some breathing room. Typically a straight question will spark a dialogue.
As for email pitches to beleaguered journalists, presume that yours will go unread, which may require taking a cue from our marketing brethren in digital advertising. If you’re not getting a click-through, swap out the creative, which in our case translates to a new subject line and body copy. Good luck.