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Life in the PR Trenches: Bombs Away!

Dawn Zinkewich

If you read TechCrunch, follow reporters on Twitter or remember Chris Anderson’s infamous PR black list, you know that one of the biggest miffs reporters and bloggers have against PR people is the unfortunate practice of assaulting them with extremely irrelevant pitches. This likely stems from the act of building enormous press lists using databases and pitching everyone blindly on the list -- sometimes referred to as “carpet-bombing.”

Aptly nicknamed for the military strategy of carpet bombing, which Wikipedia defines as “the large scale bombing of large targets (e.g. cities) usually by dropping many unguided bombs,” this unsavory practice has put a blemish on the industry and its practitioners. You would think that by now, this would no longer be an issue, but it is. Obviously, nobody’s perfect and we’ve all sent a pitch or two to someone we thought was appropriate, but in an effort to help anyone new to the industry or anyone who is a habitual offender who needs list therapy, here’s a tip to avoid being a carpet-bomb pitcher in the first place: Always take the extra steps to know who you’re pitching stories to and why you think they’d be interested in what you’re talking about.

The best way to avoid being an offender is don’t put all your trust in the database. Anyone who thinks putting a keyword in Cision and clicking “export list” cuts it, is likely an offender. The database is certainly a great starting point, especially if you are targeting an obscure vertical or want to know the local papers of a particular city or state, but it should not be the end point of your search. Dig deeper. Refine your search by closely studying the outlet and the journalist’s bio and, equally important, visit the publication’s website (Duh? I know, but…). Check out the editorial contacts. See what reporters are writing about.

This all seems very basic and logical, but sometimes we need to be reminded of the fundamentals to avoid making big mistakes. Have some tips to share on this topic? Comment away!  CJP

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