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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Subject: Help a reporter do his job

Posted on April 4, 2011 at 1:50 PM

I often regale you with the tales of spam related items that appear in my AOL inbox. The offers to help struggling Nigerian heirs move millions from their country or to save supposed long-lost friends from street-side muggings in London. But I occasionally get REAL offers as well. And I’m not talking about “real” offers to enhance performance in bed, or magically add both length AND girth or other pharmaceuticals from that 21st Century Wild West Apothecary known as “Canada.” No, these are real, actual, sincere e-mails from people legitimately looking to do business with me.

Today I got two worth sharing.

First was a message from [email protected] that had the subject, “Please help a reporter do his job.” Now, I find this intro kind of tacky and, well, offensive. First, if you’re such a frickin’ “bulldog reporter” you shouldn’t really NEED any help, am I right? Asking for help doing your job already makes me think that you’re kind of lame at your job. I can think of a TON of better headings for this, but, well, I don’t really want to help you do your job... Also, dude, YOU do YOUR job? Really? I’m busy enough doing MY own job(s) without also rising to the occasion to help you do yours as well. I know, I know...they say if you want to get something down, you give it to the busy person and they’ll find a way, but still, a pretty shabby opener.

But, damn it anyhow if I didn't go right ahead and open it.

Turns out it is from some guy named Jim Bucci and he wants to know the best way to send me quality pitches. He cut and pasted in some generic questions that “By taking five minutes or less to answer my questions, you'll receive targeted PR pitches from our client base that will match your beat and interests.” Oh great! So by answering your spam, I can ensure that I get even MORE spam? Wow! Where do I sign up? Oh, wait! Good news! Apparently I’ve ALREADY signed up!

Here is wild Jim’s list of questions, which I’ve gone ahead and answered here. You know, in case he actually DOES do his own job and decides to look around the Web a bit.

1. Which specific beats and topic areas do you cover?

I primarily cover custom-installation related components. Lighting and automation control systems, remote controls, etc. I also do a lot of work with housewide, distributed audio and video systems or ways of sending audio and/or video throughout a home. And I have a significant amount of experience reviewing music and movie servers to the point where I *might* be the foremost reviewer on the topic. If it is some kind of iPod or iPad integration into the home market, I very well might be interested. I also like high-end coffee machines, California wines and am developing a taste for single-malt scotches. Feel free to send any and all of the final items for immediate review.

2. What do the best PR people do to grab you, to get your attention and make you want to work with them?

They reach out to me personally instead of a lame, generic e-mail asking me to do their job for them. They also are lightning quick to respond to questions or concerns when I am actually working on something that relates to one of their clients.  And, this is a biggie, they invite me to cool – all-expenses paid – factory outings. Many of them are also funny and clever and people that I would enjoy hanging out with even if they weren’t trying to pitch me something. Oh! And they also aren’t ALWAYS trying to pitch me something! Oh, and they read my blog. That’s a biggie. Show me that you’re interested in what I have to say by citing something I’ve written, and I’ll be way more apt to want to listen to what YOU have to say!

3. On the other hand, what are some inappropriate pitches for your type of coverage (i.e., material that PR keeps sending you that you don't cover or pet peeves you may have about PR people)?

Hmmm..."inappropriate pitches." Well I guess I'd start by saying shenanigans like this... Also, bombarding me with stuff for cell phones and computers and car stereos and the like. Making me feel like I am just another hash-mark that you need in order to meet your “Look how many journalists I’ve reached out to!” quota. Plus, assuming that every e-mail you send needs to be followed up by multiple other e-mails asking if I need anything else or if I want to arrange an interview with some company principal. And waiting to the very last second to try and schedule some meeting or event. If I was that far down your list of invites, I'm probably already gonna be busy doing something else...

4. Can you briefly tell me about a PR pitch that resulted in a story? What was it about the pitch or PR pro that sparked your interest?

Here’s two:

“John, you want us to fly you out to Portland where you can visit Runco’s factory headquarters and then review their new D73-d 3D video projector?” --Kim Lancaster, Caster Communications.

“I’m writing to invite you to visit URC headquarters in Harrison, N.Y. URC would like to give you and some other select journalists an unprecedented inside look at its upcoming, much-anticipated Total Control product line...including some hands-on time with the products. And we’d also like to treat you to dinner.” --Joe Paone, Bee Elevated Communication.

Oh, I’m also a REAL sucker for “You’ll be the very first...” or “You’re the first person that...” or “We wanted to offer you this exclusive...” Those are pretty much Sciacca bellwether terms of endearment.

There you go, Jim. Hope you’re now more prepared to go forth into the PR world and do your job! Also, I’ll be sending an invoice for the help. Consulting ain’t free...

Categories: April 2011, On Writing

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Reply Joe Paone
4:28 PM on April 4, 2011 

I'm glad to be mentioned as one of the good ones! :-)

If I ever cross over to the dark side, though, feel free to give me a virtual "bonk" upside my head.
Reply Kimberly Lancaster
5:29 PM on April 4, 2011 
I am not sure "you want us to fly you out" was the best grammar I've ever come up with. LOL, really this was my BEST pitch? But it's good to know about the scotch and coffee makers, have I mentioned how you too can become a fantastic griller?
Reply Debra Bethard-Caplick
11:36 PM on April 4, 2011 
This PR person doesn't see pitching you anytime in the near future, but I can't resist one suggestion: Balvenie Doublewood and Glenfiddich 12 year olds.
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