Pitch perfect. 18 May 2011

When it comes to Twitter, I’m a little ashamed to say that I’m more a taker than a giver.


I follow dozens of people either through Twitter itself, or by RSS feed, but no matter how many super-injunctions I see broken, falsely or otherwise, or how many pictures of houses that look like Hitler I enjoy, it never seems to occur to me to tweet when something interesting happens to me.

Some of the most informative tweets, in a professional context, are the ones from disgruntled journalists, complaining about PRs.

When I read a tweet recently about a generously un-named PR who pitches an idea while audibly chewing gum, it made me sit up and take notice.

But apart from the obvious, it’s difficult to know the etiquette for pitching ideas to journalists. Which is awkward, because it’s our professional bread and butter.

I imagine there comes a time when you don’t get a slight attack of butterflies on picking up the phone to pitch a story or an interview, but I’m still waiting for that time, I’m afraid.

The difficult thing is that often we work with clients who aren’t obvious shoo-ins to interview slots.

So you do some research, establish what’s interesting about your client, and then try to find someone who might, in turn, be interested in that.

But it’s so easy to get wrong.

You can’t pitch a circus performer to someone who interviewed a circus performer last week – too soon.

Neither is it really sensible to pitch them to someone who’s never written about circus in their lives.

However, we also have a duty to producers to take some long shots.

Hence, I want to apologise to the journalists who, over the years, have received enthusiastic pitches for three-page interviews with actors who last set the general pulse racing in a previous century.

Or to those who have patiently sat through a long explanation of exactly how the piece of niche experimental drama we’re working on is worthy of the attention of their hundreds of thousands of readers before they politely explain how limited their space is and wish me luck elsewhere.

The trouble is that, every now and then, these long shots will work.

If this business were predictable, there’d be no need for PRs, interviews could be assigned via an objective fame/interestingness matrix, and we wouldn’t be paid the vast sums that we are (ahem).

All we can do is match our pitches to the personalities and areas of specialism of each journalist and outlet as well as we possibly can.

Which is a rather long way of saying to all journalists who have been on the wrong end of a spurious pitch – we’re only trying to do our best for our clients, not deliberately winding you up.

Unless we’re chewing gum down the phone, of course – that really isn’t part of the job. 

Stephen Pidcock, Publicist, The Corner Shop PR 

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