Can We Talk?

Secrets from a Publicist - Andrea Burnett Public Relations

Recently while reading my subscription to a popular PR newsletter, a headline caught my eye:

“Biggest PR Mistakes Ever.”

After a quick read, I was shocked to see “never ever call an editor” at the top of the list.

Really? A publicist isn’t allowed to call anyone anymore? Ever? Nevah evah? Wow. That is so incredibly sad.

Before you begin the lecture of “editors get thousands of emails and calls everyday…” I know. I get it. PR these days is a new ballgame. The landscape has drastically shifted over the last ten (even five!) years.  But what has this world (and this business) come to if you are never allowed to have that verbal connection with your people?!

Yes, there are indeed a lot of really crappy publicists out there who will call a journalist and don’t even bother to ask “Are you on deadline?” or “Is this a good time to talk?”  And yes, there are publicists who don’t even prepare the pitch, and once they get on the horn they freeze up or forget what they were going to say.

I used to teach PR and I would always hammer this into my students’ heads:  “Never pick up that phone to call a media professional if you are not going to show them that you are respectful of their deadline or if you’re not prepared to deliver a short, concise and compelling pitch.” This is most likely a great rule for all professions, but it’s worth repeating (because somehow it seems easy to forget):  Show others that you value their time, and that you respect the tremendous pressure they are under. As much as you feel pressure in your own role, it doesn’t excuse you from using bad manners.

Common courtesies aside, I am a little shocked to read that we should never call editors. What if you have a really brilliant story idea and the best way to communicate that message is verbally?  Then what? There are just some things that cannot be explained by email. The reporter or editor might miss something really special in the delivery; something emotionally riveting or vibrant or funny (I have lots of those when I’m pitching a sex book).

As someone who has been pitching for many years (yes, I now have to wear my CVS Pharmacy readers to peruse Gawker magazine), I pride myself on my charismatic delivery — on my imaginative and colorful pitches.  Hey, I have embraced all the changes: I tweet, I post, I pin (well, I try), and 99.9999% of the time, I do email my pitches. But if the worst mistake I can ever make as a publicist is to call my media contacts, then it’s a very, very sad day for me.




What do you think? And, if you’re an editor or reporter, tell us your thoughts. Do you hate phone calls as much as the industry does?


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