Journalists Recommend Getting More Strategic with Event Invites

Tony Romm covers tech for Politico, so of course he would get multiple invites to the Consumer Electronics Show Las Vegas, or “the Global Stage for Innovation.

It’s not just him, though: we’ve received several invites ourselves from PRs repping ad agencies and ad tech companies; we even got one from straight from Time, Inc. CES is a big conference that’s been around since 1967, and the fact that it’s not open to the public makes it a prime stage for showing off the work of clients even if they have little or nothing to do with larger trends in technology.

That said, the lead-up to this year’s event has also seen some grumbling from writers receiving a deluge of form pitches. Friend of the site Ed Zitron got a bit of attention earlier this week for collecting all related emails and trolling the hell out of the PR professionals who sent them.

We definitely wouldn’t go that far; we have enough people angry at us on any given day. But we do feel like the event could be a great opportunity to stress the value of strategic targeting. We asked Alan Henry, tech blogger for Gawker property Lifehacker, for his take.

“Strictly, the problem is a lack of relevance. In an attempt to hit as many people who may be interested as possible, too many PR firms resort to this kind of dragnet-style fishing expedition where they send out thousands of form pitches hoping that some hungry journalists will bite and schedule appointments with them or stop by their booth, or heaven forbid actually leave the show floor to be holed up in a suite or lounge somewhere for hours with them while they miss the rest of the show.

And sure enough, some journalists will definitely bite at that. Most outlets will probably divvy up those responsibilities among themselves anyway if the companies being represented are interesting, and have their own plan for handling those things. Beyond that, it’s even more useless because any outlet that really wants to talk to someone can do so just by stopping by the booth and asking questions—they don’t need a reminder or an appointment. Even when I was a freelancer I could stop by, explain who I was writing for, and have the opportunity to talk to who I needed to. These days it’s even worse—which is ridiculous considering CES is a smaller show than it has been in years gone by.

All in all, the PR dragnet seems to be more ‘Hey look at me! I’m here! I’m willing to talk to you and my client insists that I make my value known!’ and less ‘I have something useful and applicable to you and your outlet that’s also valuable to my client to offer.’ That’s the biggest shame to me – since PR should be focusing on making their pitches and their angles laser-focused to the latter instead of the former—and the former lands in my inbox every day, in droves.”

Zitron himself told us:

“Most agencies pressure you to pitch CES hard. It’s super important to people, and you are flayed if you fail. I understand why people are pressured, and this is on your managers: nobody should teach or promote form pitching.”

What do we think? How was the response to CES been this year? Do managers need a reminder that “dragnet” pitching isn’t necessarily the most effective way to promote these sorts of events?