“Please do your homework before contacting me. At least know what I cover.”
These two sentences are nearly always the opening mantra of reporters talking on yet another panel of media seated before yet another gathering of PR professionals hoping for a tip that can catapult their e-mail pitches and follow up phone calls to the top of the reporter’s “must cover” list.
In a sidebar to a story by Jennifer Nycz-Conner of the Washington Business Journal, she reminds us to “know what kinds of stories a reporter is drawn to.” Or she as she so memorably writes, “you wouldn’t walk into a hardware store and ask for mascara.”
Recently, I got caught not doing my homework by an editor of a major trade publication covering an important client’s industry. Much to my chagrin, my pitch was absolutely out of line. If I had studied the online editions of the publication and then paused before hitting “send” I would have realized that they don’t cover what I was proposing and that the pitch was a waste of his time and attention.
However, he had the grace and professionalism to take the time to instruct me on his publication, including what it would take to get his attention. I got lucky, didn’t I?
I’m now in the process of re-tooling my pitch to him and feel confident that my second and corrected attempt will be a successful one. His magazine gets what it’s looking for and gets it exclusively, my client is thrilled with the prospect of coverage in this prestigious industry magazine and I believe I’ve learned the “mascara in a hardware store” lesson once and for all.