In general, people dislike publicists. On numerous occasions, upon answering the question of 'what I do', I've gotten the 'oh...' (head tilt) sort of response.
Until I explain that I solely represent sustainable lifestyle brands is someone's interest truly piqued. That is the first differentiator between myself and them--agencies and freelancers alike who, generally, don't specialize based on a principle, as such, or operate in a similar fashion. I am building a brand myself. So, Orchard and Broome doesn't take on brands a) for the sake of revenue, b) if they're not sustainable in some sense, c) if they don't have an interesting, authentic backstory, or d) unless they fit within my portfolio (see point b).
Client selection aside, public relations is about communication with the media. And during a great conversation over a cup of coffee with a journalist-blogger friend, we pinpointed some of the things that typical PR reps do that, quite frankly, piss her off--and most other media, too.
- Completely irrelevant pitches. You've heard this a million times over, but far too often do publicists send pitches that are entirely unrelated to the reporter's beat. Take the extra few minutes to read some of the writer's content, understand his/her focus, style, voice, tone, and depth before commenting on their work for your own intents and purposes.
- To that effect, oftentimes writers are falsely told how adored their blogs are... when it's apparent that said PR rep found one relevant articled related to his/her client that s/he is referencing. Hint: Journalists feel they're being lied to when you do this... Be as genuine and impeccable with your word (one of the Four Agreements, that I live by) as you possibly can. Maybe you do adore their blog! But, be sure to back that up somehow, so that it's not interpreted as a self-serving compliment.
- Copy and paste... Firstly, I commend any rep who, at least, doesn't blast emails out on platforms like Cision or Agility. But, shame on you if you don't personalize and format an email properly. Granted, oftentimes we're sending out a lot of emails on any given day, but the phrase 'less is more' rings true. I opt to employ the principles of the aforementioned points and send less, higher quality, personalized notes than copy and pasted pitches. Sometimes, though, it's unavoidable, in which case format. It looks awful--and you'll be blacklisted immediately--if the message starts off in Font A, then switches to Font B, then back again. Format the text and proofread everything before sending. Bad grammar looks good on nobody...
- The actual structure of a pitch is a highly debated topic: do you suggest a story or just simply provide information... Personally, I opt to put my brands on reporters' radar with a quick overview and possible angle suggestion that s/he can interpret as they wish. Ultimately, the writer knows what works for his/her audience, and they are creatives themselves, so I don't tell him/her what to write and how to write it, but rather give them the means to whichever end they choose.
- Related to structure, the length and tone of a pitch is wildly important. I aim to strike a balance between professional, personal and straightforward. I avoid bullshit openers like, "I hope you're well!" And I keep my initial messages fairly short, offering additional information under the signature, usually, which they can read if there's interest... and no attachments!