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Hi. I’m Jocelyn and I’m a publicist.

Posted by jocelyn on July 7th, 2011

Don Draper hates PR fails. So do I. (We have so much in common!)


I don’t want to turn this into a bash-the-industry party, but Alissa is right about how publicists have a bad rap, (see her last post; see also Slate‘s brilliant press critic, Jack Shafer). When I tell people I work for Slate, GOOD, etc., they light up. When I tell them I’m the publicist, they retreat. I get it! PR people can be way annoying. Many overlook simple social cues! Some pitch the wrong people repeatedly, and some are mindlessly dogged about pushing their angle on journalists. But, I promise, we’re not all that way.

PR can be extremely valuable to a brand; critical to its growth. And publicists, when pitching thoughtfully, can be incredibly helpful to journalists in crafting a story. Consider this my cheat sheet for good PR habits, in an effort to stop the dumb dumbs from making us all look bad.

If you send a PR pitch by email, actually be cognizant of who is on the receiving end of that email.

As publicist for Slate, my email address is one of the only personal addresses listed on Slate’s “Contact Us” page. It’s clearly noted that I’m to be contacted with media inquiries, but despite the disclaimer, I’m pitched all. day. long. by publicists asking if I’d be interested in writing about their client for Slate. These publicists are aggressively pitching another publicist. This is silly! Sometimes, when I’m feeling especially ornery, I’ll write back saying they have the wrong contact but usually I just sigh a little sigh of sadness, pour one out for the lack of intellect within our industry and ignore it. And, as every publicist knows, your clients don’t exactly love when your pitches on their behalf go completely ignored.

Are you serious with these blast press releases? “Really!?” — Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler, and ME. I know, I know, press releases are the old standard or whatever, but in today’s news cycle, press releases help good journalists distinguish news from non news. (Press release = non news.) Of course, there are exceptions. When you have business news to announce, for example, sometimes it’s convenient for reporters to have the numbers all hashed out in a nicely formed press release. But this is something that should be sent to a reporter in addition to a smartly crafted pitch that showcases why the release is newsworthy and how they could weave it into a story that would be appropriate for them to tell. When someone gets a press release from you, they assume it’s been sent to a slew of other outlets, and it probably has. Give a reporter something real, something that’s only theirs to report. Then, you’re doing your job well.

Stop calling journalists on the phone. Not cool, you guys! Journalists are often, if not always, writing on deadline. Calling and interrupting them to ask if they’ve received your pitch is one of the easiest ways to get you and your client blacklisted. If you pitched and you haven’t heard back but you’re certain you’re offering up a compelling story that’s exactly right for this journalist, then fine, ping them again on it — via email or on Twitter. Calling just makes you seem socially inept, totally annoying, and it makes your client look desperate for coverage.

Okay! End rant. Sorry for going on but it kills me that some publicists don’t know better. I hate that when I send pitches to my most favorite bloggers and reporters, I feel as though I first have to prove myself as not an imbecile. We’re in the business of connecting with people, right? Let’s connect the right way, so that we’re not so loathed, mmkay?