See, compared to the Bad Pitch Blog, I’m just a one-man band standing outside Marks & Spencer in the rain while a dog wees into my collection hat. They get all the good – er, bad – stuff. Like this one.
The Home Sick Pitch: “This editorial plea is near to my heart as it comes from a retail trade publication. An editor at Home Channel News (think distribution channel, not TV channel) has asked the Bad Pitch Blog to voice her plea.
Dear God, can you please help PR professionals stop with the ‘story ideas’?
I work at a business trade magazine – we cater to home improvement professionals in the U.S. I get four ‘story ideas’ per day, on average, suggesting everything from writing about a lumberyard owner who just turned 62, to a CEO’s lousy $500 donation to help pets abandoned because of Hurricane Katrina, to this:
Story Idea: AT-HOME HYDROTHERAPY – Your House or Mine?
As the latest must-have home accessory, new Pipeless Spa Baths are bringing the benefits of at-home hydrotherapy direct to consumers’ doors with luxurious style, substance and safety.”
So they only bring it to the door? Lazy sods. You’d expect they’d lug it inside for that price.
Story ideas. Yes, hmm. It’s hard to know what to advise. If I were working in PR – OK, that’s your laugh for the day – I don’t know where I’d stand on this. The good ideas that people pitch to me (such as one from a face to face meeting with some really good friends last week) weren’t pitched; we just talked about what they’re doing, who their clients are, and I followed the threads that I thought interesting to go down the paths towards what seem to me interesting stories. Did they work? Hell yes – to get clients who they find interesting, who they can talk about. (There’s lots of slog too, of course, getting the little stuff about their clients to become visible; I’m conveniently ignoring that.)
Cooking up story ideas and throwing them at the wall of journalism to see if they’ll stick, in the manner of students checking whether spaghetti is al dente, seems to me fruitless. All that happens is the stuff tends to slide down the wall and leave an ugly mess at the bottom. Journalists know stories, and tend to know what they want. But they’re lousy at PR. And vice-versa.
Thinking of which, one of the friends I met last week was rolling her eyes in relief at having dealt with a journalist from the Guardian (not me) on a story. “It’s so different,” she said. And then suggested a brilliant idea – that there should be a sort of league table for PRs: if you’re not in the top league, you can’t pitch to national papers. You have to work your way up through the trades and so on. Like football – third division clubs don’t get to take on Chelsea or Man U or whatever. Fascinating idea. How do we implement it? Equally, of course, journos on trade papers and so on couldn’t ring up Max Clifford – but then, do they anyway? When I was on Computer Weekly, I always used to wonder what I was doing when I called the PR companies which did high-flying PR for big City banks and blue-chip companies.