With our PR industry under the microscope this week surrounding Burson-Marsteller’s handling of PR for Facebook, (Read more: “Facebook acknowledges anti-Google campaign” by Hayley Tsukayama, the Washington Post) we believe this contributed article from an esteemed colleague on the east coast may be of interest for our fellow PR friends in the west.
Isn’t it ironic that social media often is antisocial? In our ever-evolving and fast-moving social-media world, perhaps it’s good to pause and look back at history. In the 1920s, Edward L. Bernays, the first public relations counselor, called for a code of ethics to govern the emerging profession similar to codes in law and medicine. Bernays believed public relations practitioners, like lawyers, have a right to represent clients. He also felt, however, that PR practitioners should refuse dishonest, fraudulent or antisocial clients.
Given the current social media Burson-Marsteller/Facebook flap, isn’t it ironic—or prescient—that he used “antisocial” back then? How far has the profession “emerged”? In fact, it’s emerged a great deal through PRSA’s and IABC’s codes of ethics and the Arthur W. Page Society’s Page Principles, among others—all voluntary standards for evaluating an individual’s, group’s or company’s behavior that, alas, don’t carry substantive penalties.
The current Burson-Marsteller and Facebook issue clearly violated normative standards. To me, normative standards in public relations amount to self-regulation in U.S. financial markets. We know what happened there. The recent successful prosecution of the Wall Street insider-trading case (pending appeal) will perhaps encourage Wall Street’s return to normative behavior. Likewise, we can hope and expect that the Burson-Marsteller and Facebook flare-up will make public relations codes of ethics enforceable through real penalties as other professions have: disbarment or practicing prohibitions. In other recent social media gaffs, those involved have been fired. Those are choices societies and professions must make to control antisocial behavior in a social-media world.
Okay so let me start out by saying that I am by no means an expert on pitching! I’ve landed a few awesome hits in my day (ahem, The New York Times, The View, Good Morning America, etc., etc.) but it definitely takes more than a few good hits to call yourself an expert. However, since I have now crossed over to the other side of the e-mail chain and am the one actually receiving the pitches, I thought it would be in my best interest and yours to pass on a few tips. In some cases, they might just be friendly reminders but believe me when I say that I have received some HORRENDUS pitches.
I could be “that person” that calls out your name via Twitter or on my blog…but I won’t…just take my few words of advice next time you send out a pitch and I’m sure you and your client will be rewarded with some nice coverage in the end!
1) It’s okay to follow-up but don’t harass me – this may seem like a no-brainer to some but I assure you, I’ve definitely been harassed for either not answering an e-mail (it was probably a bad pitch to start!) or for saying I was going to use something on a certain date and then pushing it back a few days. A friendly follow-up is great, it’s actually welcome in my book as I know you’re just doing your due diligence but don’t scream at me over e-mail. I get tons of inquiries a day asking me to use this product or interview this person and I read every single one of those e-mails. In fact, I file away the ones I like and plan on using. BUT it’s nearly impossible to respond to each e-mail at that very moment. Just know that I will and when I do, be nice and pretend you remember who I am!
2) Be respectful of the media outlet – okay, I know I’m not with USA Today or People but remember YOU pitched ME! If I do take the time to respond to you and say I would like to use your client and I request photos or a sample, please follow through on your end. My little Web site is something that I take pride in and I too want to offer the best to my readers. Just because the readership isn’t over a million, doesn’t mean it deserves any less respect from you. At least take the time to send me one little picture… otherwise, you shouldn’t have offered and pitched me in the first place!
3) Pitch with links and ONE or TWO photos MAX – I love receiving a photo with my pitches so I don’t have to go back and request one and also so I can see what it is without having to search for it. It makes my job a whole lot easier and I’m much more likely to choose your client versus one that doesn’t include a photo. If you don’t include a photo, at least include a link that I can click and see the product. I’ve received pitches with 32 photos included and that just makes me hit the delete button!! On the other hand, I’ve gotten pitches with no photos and not even a Web site mention – how does that help me?!
4) At least pretend you read my Web site – you don’t have to become a loyal follower but take a look once and awhile and see what I’m writing about. Any journalist likes to know that you read their articles and if you reference something they wrote recently, it scores you major points! If you have to ask me what media outlet I’m with or what I write about, I’m definitely not interested in working with you.
Just a few words of pitching wisdom from me to you… I hope to get some great pitches from you soon!