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. 

I've decided to add some occasional posts here, in addition to Bits.

I saw Frank Shaw comment on an blog post, talking about the Darwinian pressures on the news business. Yes things are changing, but I find much of the talk about MSM to be overstated and not so precise. I left this comment on Frank's blog:

Frank you still overstate the change.

Big picture: There is a modest evolution in the content model for news media (More competition and distribution options, more interactivity and user involvement, faster time frame). For newspapers certainly, the advent of the Web is far easier than the advent of television. All this other stuff is hooey.

Most media have the same business model: attract an audience and sell it to advertisers. Subscription revenue is harder to come by.

The only real revolution, I'm sorry to say, is with newspapers, which made so much money from advertising (classified, etc) that was related to their distribution, not their content.

All that really means is that newspapers will have to get smaller until their news budget matches the ad revenue from the content they produce.