The “Have I Got a Story For You” Trick
I’m no fan of bad, sloppy PR, and to me there’s nothing quite as sloppy as pitching a product to a journalist s/he has already written about. Do these people not have any records at all? Do they have no idea of what coverage their product has already received?
I’ve been pitched two products in the past week that I have written about already in my WSJ.com column. OK, not everyone reads the WSJ, and not everyone reads the column, but it’s not exactly a backwater publication that would have not shown up in someone’s records, had they been keeping any.
First there was the Unotron washable keyboard, which I pretty much dedicated a whole column to a couple of years back (it shows up on the CollegeJournal with a search unotron wsj). In response to a request to the PR/expert source clearing house ProfNet a few days back I received a pitch from a PR guy which began
If you are looking for the latest technological advancement in computer keyboards, I may have your answer.
What surprised me here was that my column was copiously cited on the company’s own website.
Then there’s something called the Loc8tor, a tracking device I wrote about a few months back in another WSJ.com column. I just now received a pitch with the breathless subject line: “STORY IDEA: New RFID Tracking Device Finds Valuables with Directional Capabilities”:
I am contacting you regarding a new product story that will help your readers stay organized and find their valuables.
The original column doesn’t show up high in the search engines if you look for loc8tor wsj but a reference to it clearly shows up in a link to Peter Morville of findability.org, whom I interviewed for the piece. Seems the PR company could use the product themselves to keep track of previous coverage of their client’s product.
(It’s only “new”, by the way, in the sense of newly available in the U.S.; the product’s been around for at least a year in the UK and elsewhere. The PR person involved clearly doesn’t have a particularly good database as my column has carried an Asian dateline for the past year, and my blog and webpage make clear I’m not U.S. based. Minor details, I grant you, but I feel sorry for the poor sap who’s paying the agency if he’s hoping for a well-targeted PR campaign.)
What’s telling, to me, in both of these cases, is that I had originally dealt with the companies themselves, not with their PR companies. In fact, I’m not sure either had PR companies working with them when I dealt with them. In other words, these companies have hired PR companies to go get coverage, who then go undo the positive work the company itself had done by pitching to the self-same guys who have already given them coverage.
I can understand, I suppose, this kind of thing happening. But it’s still sloppy, and clearly indicates that the PR company, when hired, does little or no research into what coverage the product has already received. Surely that would be the first thing you’d do, if only to see whether those publications or writers have already written about you might be worth cultivating for follow-up coverage down the track? At the very least, I guess I would assume you don’t want to alienate those people by showing you have no idea what they’ve been writing about?
PR note #273: When you get a new client, Google them.