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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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A Writer’s Perspective – PR Gaffes
Friday, September 12, 2008

As a journalist in the entertainment world I deal with literally hundreds of publicists every day (thankfully, not all at once!). Over the years I’ve worked with a lot of fantastic PR people. I’ve also worked with a (thankfully lesser) number of PR people who weren’t exactly the brightest bulbs in the bunch. Whenever I talk with my writer friends the topic of publicists constantly comes up; which ones are on their job, which ones annoy the heck out of us, etc. Today, in that spirit, and in order to help out the future PR people of the entertainment world, I want to go over three of the biggest gaffes I’ve seen publicists make during my near decade in the game.

Not knowing the magazine you’re pitching to

This happens way more than any PR person would like to admit. Most PR people have notes regarding which magazines each writer works for, but a lot of those notes are in need of a little fleshing out because if you don’t know what a magazine is about you run the risk of sending a request for placement that results in a lot of strange looks and more than a few questions. I have a few examples (and no I won’t name names). I used to write for a women’s beach lifestyle magazine called Foam. I would occasionally get publicists pitching me hardcore rappers, saying “we’d love to see them in Foam,” or “I think this artist would be perfect for Foam.” Really? Have you ever seen the magazine?

What can be even more exasperating is when a publicist asks to get their client in a magazine that no longer exists. The number of times I had PR people say they were really hoping for placement in Elemental literally YEARS after the magazine had ceased publishing was enough to make me want to scream “check a newsstand!”

I know, getting info on every magazine is tough, but if you have the time to send an inquiry to a writer, you have the time to do an internet search for the publication to find out what it’s about. One recent interaction I had with a publicist was great because she told me she’d looked up the website of one of the magazines I write for but was still unsure of what kind of artists to pitch my way. The fact that she looked it up made all the difference in the world because it established she really was interested in that specific publication.

Thinking an email is enough

Every PR person on earth sends out email blasts of their press releases. If they really want to get their client in a magazine, however, picking up the phone does a world of good. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed over a press release in my email (I can get well over fifty press releases in a day) only to end up doing a story on that particular artist / actor because the publicist called me up to talk about them.

Calling also has another positive effect; it creates a much stronger relationship between the publicist and the writer. From personal experience, the publicists I work with most are the ones that pick up the phone every month or two just to ask what I’m working on and pitch an artist or two.

Yet another positive effect of picking up the phone is that by asking what a writer is working on a publicist can figure out which publications their clients will fit best in. So if you’re not getting any responses from your emails, let your fingers do the walking. Just don’t do it too much. None of us like publicists who call every day!

Forgetting basic manners

Ever since we were little our parents told us if someone does something nice for you say “thank you.” This still applies today. If a writer gets you a great placement, or even just a little placement, shoot them an email, or give them a call to say “great work! I loved the article. Thank you so much.” It will take you no more than thirty seconds and if you don’t do it every writer will remember… and talk about it.

So there you have it. A few quick notes regarding the publicity game from a journalist’s perspective. I hope no one takes offense to any of these items and if you’re a writer, or a PR person, and want to add on another rule or two please leave a comment. Let’s figure out as many ways as possible to make our working relationships better!

posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:49 AM  
  • At 4:07 AM, Blogger Dro Ameh said…

    very helful

  • At 1:05 PM, Blogger BlueShoes Media said…

    Always on point. Thanks Adam, for keeping us on our toes.

  • At 2:44 PM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    Thanks for the props.

    This article actually just netted me a speaking gig in October at Hofstra University (my old stomping grounds!). I'll be talking to two different Media Relations classes about effective ways to work with journalists.

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