Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe

If you're an idiot, I'll blame your boss

There is a standard list of things that annoy journalists. One whole section is people asking for information that's tedious for us to compile and of dubious value if we do compile it. Did we receive your press release? If you sent it to the right address, we did.Will we be using it? If we are, we'll have contacted you already because we don't re-use press releases intact with no extra research (insert catty comment about automated news writing here - Ed). Can we send you a features list? No.

Magazines and newspapers produce features lists so the ad department knows what to try to sell ads for. PRs use them in place of building a good relationship with the journalist so that they're sure that if a relevant feature comes up, the journalist will ask if their client can contribute. A few freelancers do their own features lists and if it's the way you work, more power to you. I write for so many titles in so many markets on such specific features at often such short notice that my list is unlikely to have more than one entry that's relevant to any one agency and very few tht you could pitch on. Phrasing it right, keeping it up to date and distributing it would take a lot of time. I usually know exactly who I want to talk to before I sell the story. If I want comment for a specific feature I'll put that feature on a service like ResponseSource that publishes it to all the PRs who sign up. And if you tell me ResponseSource is too expensive, I'll ask you to explain why I should do more work to save your company money.

My features list for the next few things would read:
reader questions on Windows XP - sourced
Microsoft consumer-related people to interview, mostly from the US offices - I already have the relevant contacts
Battery and power issues for the FT - on the FT features list and I've had maybe 50 pitches already
ditto three other pieces for the FT
Camera reviews - sourced
MP3 reviews - this one I do need more contacts for
Failures in identity systems and what developers need to know - if I want to talk to your client I've been houunding them by email for a month
Motorola, Google and the mobile enterprise - sourced

A PR who knows me already knows this. A new junior account exec won't know this.But they'll have been hired by someone who ought to know it. Particularly if they work on the account for BigSoftwareCorp#5 who I have been writing about for years. If you ask me a daft question, I wonder how well you've been briefed. I won't blame you; I'll blame the person who must have asked you to do it. And if it's the third request I've had this month I'll wonder if we need to do a little... re-education.
Tags: features list, pr, rant, writing

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