No matter the media outlet, I feel the same about receiving a reply to my pitch. My eyes light up, my heart races and I get a warm feeling in my stomach coupled with a deep inhale as I click on my perfectly crafted subject line.
This time, it’s a macro influencer and blogger I have been emailing about a guest collaboration with my client. I am no less excited about the fact that this reply isn’t from Bloomberg or Forbes.
I consider any opportunity to spread my client’s message an honor for us both. Imagine my surprise when I find a very curt message about my pitch not being “acceptable” and that if my client would like any collaboration, she would need to contact the blogger directly.
“And leave me out?” I thought to myself. Was this host kidding? If I’m honest this isn’t the first time a pitch of mine has been dead on arrival. The sentiments from others have been the same with various journalists of much larger media as if they were all a part of the same members-only club.
Even when Googling “How To Get Featured in [Name that BIG Publication]” what you’ll likely find is another extended version of “we don’t accept pitches from publicists” or “please don’t send us your press release.”
In 2018, Muck Rack published a study of over 500 journalists around the world, of which 24% in the U.S. thought that PR firms and agencies were just “a necessary evil”.
Ick! A NECESSARY EVIL?
It’s true. Publicists aren’t highly regarded within the industry of news. We’ve all seen more than one scathing article about PR Firms and perhaps the only true champions who are well-known in our field are equally proficient bad boys like former Kardashian’s publicist, Jonathan Cheban.
Publicists have the worst reputation in the news industry. It’s time we all address it. But how can we begin when both sides are divided? On one hand, some journalists are quite public about their disdain for publicist-managed pitches, but plenty of others welcome the Publicist. Likewise, some publicists are aware of the divide and adjust, and others are staunch traditionalists.
Here’s how we can overcome our withering reputation and salvage the honor of the relationship between publicists and journalists.
We all hate disingenuous interactions with people we hardly like or respect at the expense of our time, energy, and integrity. Why then, is it so acceptable to spend an hour a day liking journalists’ posts or following them on Twitter just to be able to “soft pitch” them later?
I have a better idea. Let’s dig for the things we do have in common. I found out I shared a love of urban gardening with one journalist who is now a close friend. Many other journalists who I’ll never meet in person are “online friends” I share information with that has absolutely nothing to do with my clients. Oftentimes, what I’m sharing is just a laugh.
“Networking” isn’t building relationships with journalists. We should “connect,” and strengthen that connection through our shared love of excellent writing and poignant ideas.
Put Some Respect On Your Name.
It’s time to call out journalists on their stuff. Our career troubles aren’t the same, but they’re very similar. We should respect each other. Journalists are brilliant people and we give their Harvard degrees and career breaking stories all the recognition they deserve. It’s time they do the same for us.
While they berate us publicly for biasedly pitching dud stories, many journalists are subject to the biases of their publications investors. How many journalist queries have we seen about the priority given to sources with a huge social following?
In the 2019 Columbia Journal Review’s “Publicist Anonymous,” one auto industry publicist states:
“One reporter told me that anything he writes about the auto industry needs to have either “Tesla” or “Uber” in the headline, even if the story has nothing to do with those companies. It’s making the reporting a lot more one-dimensional.”
Respectfully, there are plenty of examples on both sides where we succumb to some pressures of keeping our jobs — even if minuscule in comparison. Furthermore, no one has a problem viewing journalists as a proxy for the reader and consumer. It’s about time we all recognize the publicist as a proxy for American business and founders.
Down for Scheduled…Rebranding
While it’s our job to be ultra concerned with the presentation of our clients, it might be high time we seek out an industry-wide rebranding of our own. We go by many names: publicist, press relations, PR agent bla, bla, bla…I propose a new moniker: Advocateur. We speak for our clients and are advocates of their perspective.
No matter what we’re called, we could stand to be more vocal and step out from behind agency work from time to time to discuss our industry. We should also use our work and skill to help make the world a better place. How many of your clients are pro bono projects you believe in?
Journalists and publicists have a lot to protect: reputation, work, client confidence. We should all add our relationship to the list. When the relationship between both groups is formidable, magical things start to happen in the news.
The importance of building relationships doesn’t start or stop with a pitch. The relationship process takes time, energy, and patience to better your chances of being a resource and considered a “friend” to journalists. Many of the journalists interviewed on Coffee with a Journalist share this same sentiment. OnePitch’s latest series, Your All Inclusive Guide to Media Relations, provides tips for implementing best practices to help you grow your earned media presence and foster stronger relationships with journalists.