Home > Advice, Journalism, PR > Journalists discuss best ways to be approached

Journalists discuss best ways to be approached

Renee Blodgett, an extremely smart friend of mine who’s taken a bit of her precious time to chat with me personally about life and career development, wrote an interesting post yesterday about the do’s and don’ts of approaching journalists.

Renee commented on a recent panel that included Fred Vogelstein from Wired, John Cook from the Seattle PI, Michael Arrington from TechCrunch, Rebecca Buckman from the WSJ, and Tricia Duryee from the Seattle Times. A video of the panel is also available here.

What struck me most interesting about her roundup was the fact that Rebecca Buckman would rather get a pitch via email than the phone—A concept that has left my stomach turning since I started to work in PR.

To put it mildly, I am a people person. I am able to find common ground usually within seconds. I find a conversation, the two-way kind that includes a high-level of discourse, beats an email any day. But in today’s hyper-connected environment, the ability to get precious face time is a bit like pulling teeth.

Fred Vogelstein from Wired went on to comment that, “Some [Firms] are very well connected to us and a handful of them can invite me to a dinner and because they take their time to choose their clients carefully, I’ll probably go. I get tons of pitches from [PR] firms, most of them come from people who are 23 years old reading from a script. When I ask basic questions, they often can’t answer them.”

I know this to be fact because I was one of those young PR hacks just a short 14 months ago. My first day found myself calling the New York Times, Associated Press and every major newspaper in Florida and New Orleans. In hindsight it was a mistake to put me on the phone—I really didn’t fully understand my client, their space, or their technology—but what I did understand was the aspect of building a relationship and never lying to get yourself out of a hole.

My second phone call ever was o the Associated Press who peppered me with questions. I got through half of them before I had to admit I was new and would need to follow-up. The reporter sounded annoyed, but gave me the chance anyway. I spent the next hour crafting a detailed email answering all his questions, providing a customer reference, trend story angle and several clips that complimented the story, but lacked the ability to tie the entire story togeather. The reporter instantly called me back. He chose not to write the story that day, but it was the beginning of a strong relationship that led him vouching for me to his colleagues, which did turn into a story and mass exposure for my client.

Now just after 14 months, I’ve been able to build an arsenal of reporters who I speak to on a daily basis. We chat mostly about Baseball, mountain biking, beer, kids, vacations and the demise of journalism. When I need to talk about my client they give me the time of day, even if they chose not to write a story, it’s still worth it.

As for the advice of TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington, “If the product is great, you’ll likely get written up.” I want to believe this is true, but the problem lies in what is considered great. Journalists, especially tech journalists, are like critics, and if you break that delicate dance between supplier and consumer, journalists will be the first to pounce, and just like a bad review at your favorite restaurant, they can sink your business.

Categories: Advice, Journalism, PR
  1. August 9, 2007 at 4:55 am

    Hi. I found your blog becuase you mentioned me, of course. But I’ve stayed because I’ve read your posts over the last two nights, and I really enjoy what you’re writing. Congratulations on launching the new blog – I think you’re doing a great job.


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