Friday, November 7, 2008

For PR Pitches: Think about Gmail SEO

Every now and then I have a dialog with people in the public relations industry about how they can do their job better by helping reporters do our jobs better. I had a thought recently, and sent this e-mail to a few folks who are thoughtful about PR. 

I've got an idea that may be worth getting into the PR community. I don't have the time or forum, but one or both of you might be interested. 

I was responding to a pr pitch about a widget company, and i wrote this back:

Keep me posted on what these folks are up to, with an occasional e-mail. Don't worry if I don't respond. The way my life seems to work, suddenly something happens, and then I'll be interested in, say widgets. I'll remember you sent me something on a cool widget company, search my e-mail and get on the phone. 

When I sent it, I realized that I'm probably not alone in how gmail and other e-mail search is changing how I find information. And I wonder if PR people should think about what tools of search engine optimization apply to pitches:

  • If a reporter was working on a story and needed to talk to your client, what terms would they search for, and are those the ones you use in the pitch?
  • How would the headline and first paragraph of the pitch tell them the areas in which your client has unique knowledge? 
  • Is there contact information that will allow them to find your client very quickly  on deadline?
This is a self serving thought. My biggest problem with pitches is that at least half the ones I get, I can't understand what the company does that the pitch is about. Often, the pitch is so wound up trying to define some sort of cute trend the company fits into that they don't actually give the who-what-where-when. And too many pitches use such obscure jargon, that they are impenetrable.  Allow me to vent on this for one second, with a the first paragraph of a pitch I got yesterday:

Hope you're well. I'd like to introduce you to xxxx , a new, place-based out-of-home digital network that delivers relevant, localized media within the rhythm of consumers' daily rituals, like afternoon coffee or sandwiches at lunch. 

It turns out that the company puts video billboards in delis. My hope is that if people realize that a reporter is much more likely to search for "video billboard" than " place-based out-of-home digital network" this may be an incentive for PR people to brush up on their English a bit. 



frani lieberman said...

Thanks saul- posts like this are extremely helpful and hopefully heeded. Please keep them coming.

Kasey said...

Thanks, Saul. Really useful tips here for helping us do our job better and in turn, providing you with relevant and timely sources.

Unknown said...

Thanks Saul!i sent this around to our dept, its always helpful to hear from a reporters POV and get that reality check we all need once in a while :)

Susan @ Mzinga said...


This is great stuff. As any good PR person knows, the fewer words in a pitch, the better. I've had the most success when my pitches are 2-3 lines max.

BlinnPR said...

Just read your post. I think it's a great idea. Using keywords/tags at the end of an email relevant to the client.

But I do have a question. You seem to be an exception, but do reporters really keep all those pitches they receive from PR people or do they quickly trash them based on the subject head?

Steven Blinn

casacaudill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
casacaudill said...

Great advice, Saul, and info that I'm sharing with my team.

Tami Casey said...

Thank you. Excellent post love the idea of SEO for the email. I think I'll use it as a standard for all email correspondence.

Eszter said...

Good point. Reminds me of the product descriptions on Woot. They try to be funny, but in the end they're completely useless.

Holly Michael, APR said...

In my experience, it's not the PR people coming up with these fanciful names for common products, it is the marketing people and if you're really unlucky, the CEO. I have suffered through TWO corporate transitions from offering hardware/software that did something to "solutions" that claim to do everything=nothing.

My point is that maybe the SEO angle is a good one to try when making the case that "cylindrical beverage device" is not better than "cup."

Saul Hansell said...

Steven Blinn: "You seem to be an exception, but do reporters really keep all those pitches they receive from PR people or do they quickly trash them based on the subject head?"

Saul: Some keep; some throw out. I don't know the proportion. But given services like Gmail and the rest, I'd imagine the share of those that keep pitches is going up.

Andy said...

Good points. I think one of the biggest challenges is succinctly describing yourself (i.e. your category) and at the same time how you are unique in a way that matters. Many entrepreneurs I've met have a hard time describing themselves as just their category and go straight for the differentiation, leaving out the most important piece -- what are you?

Unknown said...

Wow...what a great but simple reminder. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Saul, good idea -- just passed this along to our team. Sometimes the urge to 'stand out' needs to be tamped down.

Simple and clear may be boring but it's simple and clear.

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