7 Takeaway Tips from the Latest Forbes ‘Why Journalists Hate PR’ Story

In case you—like most people—missed it, last week Forbes ran yet another inflammatory story about how much journalists can’t stand public relations people. We know, we know. Ugh.

This one (surprise!) was a bit of a pitch for interviewee and reporter-turned “PR maverick” Ed Zitron‘s new endeavor EZ-PR, with which he plans to break all the rules of traditional media relations and revolutionize the industry. Or something.

Zitron’s first question to Forbes reporter Karsten Strauss was not “would you like to write about my client?” but “what would you like to write about in general?”, which is certainly a step in the right direction. But you knew that.

Here are his main pointers and our thoughts on the same:

  1. No more mass emails. Good point. Obvious mass emails are obvious: no real salutation, no real personalization…just a copied-and-pasted press release with a huge BCC list. Nobody likes those.
  2. No pushing ‘branded content’. Another good point. Unless you’re pitching a strategic think piece about how a given brand uses such content, few journalists or bloggers will be interested. Stereotypes are true, we’re egocentric people, and we’d like to get credit for breaking new, interesting stories. That we wrote.
  3. No cold calls. Zitron writes in his e-book that phone calls are “today’s version of the door-to-door salesman”, which is fairly accurate. Yet we feel like the industry already got that message, because we very rarely get cold calls. Do your managers pressure you to make cold calls? (Serious question. We don’t know.)
  4. Shorter, better-tailored pitches(and responses). Can’t repeat this point often enough. If you have a press release, cut and paste it in the email and include a link. And if a reporter asks for more, try to be as succinct as possible.
  5. A less formal, more personal approach. Zitron has the right idea: a nice, informal “so what can I pitch to you?” email will go over better than a “our client just broke sales records OMG” message
  6. Go for quirk. It’s all about the angle. Zitron’s successful pitch about an entrepreneur/radiation safety specialist who felt like the world needed his super-strong coffee is a great example.

And finally:

  • Get yourself fired and start your own firm. Just kidding. That’s what he did, and his (apparently) two-man firm now boasts several clients, but we can’t recommend such a dramatic move because we like stability. At the same time, it is a little hard to be personable with all that bureaucracy hanging over your head.

So don’t quit your day job. But consider this money quote:

“In PR the retainers people will pay are enough to blow any sit-down salary out of the water for a tiny bit of work.”

He’s right, you know. Just don’t remind your journalist friends.