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Sympathy for a Journalist
By: Mike Bush
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In PR, we’ve all read or listened to a journalist when (s)he says something like “try to send me information that’s relevant to what I write.” And yes, we’ve all, at some point or another, ignored this simple request, pulled a media list out of Cision and blindly sent a mass pitch to people who we hoped might be relevant.*
 
I always understood this journalist request, but in some cases, I thought there was a little bit of arrogance. While trying to take it to heart, and making a point of trying not to send unnecessary pitches, I always felt as though the reporter was saying, “I’m too good for your email, peasant.” Intended slight? Probably not. But somehow, it always seemed that way.
 
Well, now that I work in corporate comms and my email address is one of the few posted on the company’s website, I’d like to apologize to any reporter I’ve thought to be arrogant…and I’d also like to tell them that corporate comms have a “too much email PR” equivalent: List brokers.
 
You may know the type. They have contact info for “thousands of decision makers in the industries you work” (yup, that’s a generic pitch…and most likely it’s being sent to the wrong person…sound familiar?) Also, they’re RELENTLESS.
 
Seeing my attitude from before on the “I’m too important for your email” side I’ve made a conscious decision not to immediately block senders, preferring instead to send a note asking to be removed from a list (or using the opt-out function at the bottom of the e-mail).
 
In many cases, it hasn’t had any effect.
 
What’s worse, many of these list vendors forward previous emails a day later asking why I haven’t gotten back to them (another common reporter complaint). I find I’m especially annoyed when I go to my outbox to find that, yes, in fact, I DID reply, explaining that I’m not an appropriate contact (and if someone has been particularly egregious, asking how I could possibly have faith in someone selling "targeted lists" when they’re clearly incapable of targeting the right people for their services).
 
In short…I’ve learned my lesson, and can now officially feel sympathy for the many journalists who have given the same basic tips to PR people over the years.
 
*I’m willing to bet that an anonymous poll of flacks will show that, at some point in their career, they’ve done this. Presumably, after feeling how poorly it went, they will have learned their lesson, although I’m sure there are firms that still use this methodology today. I get it; list building is tedious stuff. But boy, taking the time up front to identify the right people at a publication and then fostering relationships to aim at continued coverage ought to be labeled the holy grail of PR.


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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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