PR Pratfalls // Rebels at Large

From Josh: If you were paying attention, you'll remember that I said we'd be having posts from guest bloggers. See, just because I started this thing doesn't mean it's all about me. On the contrary, being a Rebel is about smashing the status quo. It's about exploring new ways when the old ways are no longer working. It's about being a leader — out for self and out for the community at the same time.

I'm pleased to introduce our first guest: Jennifer Reitman. Her company, DAME, is the hottest new site out there for grown ass women who need more than makeup tips and boy band gossip. Most impressive, DAME also gets that business is always personal, and vice versa. The days of separating business and lifestyle media are behind us people. Time to catch-up.

Jennifer knows her audience, which is #1 of the essential 4-Cs. In her first post, she gives up real talk for publicists trying to peddle their wares. Listen up...

Tis The Season… for the onslaught of press releases

by Jennifer Reitman

As the Publisher (and by default, Editorial Director) of a woman’s lifestyle website, I get dozens of press releases on a weekly basis. And after 15 some odd years in the print and online publishing industry, I’ve seen just about every type of pitch in the book.

And like clockwork about 12 weeks ago, the annual up-tick of press releases in my in-box started

You see, it's holiday season and any PR company representing anything that should or could or wants to be considered for coverage in a gift/holiday/entertaining feature has been working since early fall getting their client’s products in front of editors and writers.

Coincidentally, at about the same time my email started becoming unmanagable, an acquaintance who works at very large PR firm asked if I’d be interested in doing a little talk for the juniors on “the media’s point-of-view on what works when pitching”.

The convergence of the two got me thinking about PR.

Don’t get me wrong, not only do I want press releases, I NEED them. Like any media outlet, we want to be ahead of the curve. But that doesn’t mean all pitches are created equally. Bottom line, some are crap. So what then does turns an average press release into editorial coverage? I speak for no one but myself, but here is what gets me as it relates to electronic PR:

  1. If you don’t connect with me, how can you possibly connect with my audience? Don’t just attach the release — at least send an intro and a thank you. The time of editors, writers and publishers is just as valuable as yours. Tell me what you like on my site, that you think I may be interested in knowing about product launch X and how to move forward on getting more information.
  2. Take at least 30 seconds to think about who you are sending the release to. I publish a women’s site… for women. Sending me releases on gay porn stars is as much a waste of your time as it is mine. Think about your media target, who they publish for and if it’s relevant to their audience.
  3. Spend another 30 seconds really thinking about relevancy. How will YOUR client benefit from the editorial and the audience reading the story. Conveying that relevancy to your target press outlet is important — it makes us think “Oh, my readers have to know about this, and I want to be the one telling them.”
  4. Think about the media outlet. Every media property has a POV, a tone — think about how your client’s product can best fit that tone. We like to take a more irreverent tone in our editorial and I’d love if publicists acknowledged this.
  5. Make my job easier. While we don’t always go with angles we’re pitched, I do love when publicists send their “suggested feature” ideas. Even if they don’t work, they might spark an angle I hadn't thought of.
  6. Don't slack with follow up. If you get a request for more information, then be quick to deliver. For those of us who've worked in long-lead media, it's not such a big deal waiting a few days for images or products, but on the web, we may want to turn something around same day. As I type this I am waiting for galleys on a book I requested THREE weeks ago.
  7. Make the most of the email or package. If the press release is product driven — beauty, fashion, consumer goods — don't just tell me, show me. Visuals spark ideas. For example, I recently got a release about a line of rings that were made of jewels and political party themed. The release itself was blah — but the images got us excited — and we did a story.
At the end of the day, publicists and media need each other, and like any relationship, the right communication tactics make for a happy marriage.
After working and consulting for various media outlets for the past 15 years, Jennifer Reitman founded DAME - a new women's website full of provocative features, plenty of style/beauty and no shortage of irreverent attitude. And press releases. They get tons of press releases.
DAME - for women who know better.