Our New York PR agency was fortunate enough to be part of the very successful national launch of a new beer this past summer. This afforded our team the opportunity to cultivate new media relationships all over the country. One that stands out is Marissa Harris, a veteran TV producer with WGN TV News in Chicago who took the time to answer the questions in our occasional series, “A Journalist’s POV.” Here’s a recap of our interview with some helpful tips for PR pros.
Tell us three things a PR person should never do when pitching you an idea. Here are my top three PR “nevers”: Never send an email, then call just minutes later to see if I read it. Never spell the contact’s name wrong. It shows that you don’t care and aren’t detail-oriented, which can become a nightmare if we work together. Never pitch “blindly.” Do the homework on the type of things the program airs and proceed from there. It can be a good opening to reference something you’ve seen on our show that makes you think we’d be receptive to your idea.
What is the most outrageous PR pitch you ever received? Since we’re so close to Thanksgiving, I’ll start with that example; it’s not outrageous, just silly. The person pitched a story for a career website on “5 Ways to Leave a Mark on Your Career,” and gave examples of how to be inspired by historical figures associated with Thanksgiving. I knew it was going to be a hoot when I saw the line that started, “Pilgrims, the original networkers,” and it went downhill from there. Actually there was a similar one for Halloween about “reviving a dead career” which began with “rise at the witching hour.” You get the picture. My advice: not everything needs to have a theme! We appreciate clever writing and puns, but we’d rather see substance. If you have to choose between really stretching to make something fit, err on the side of a good, visual story.
Can you provide an example where a PR person “saved the day” – went above and beyond to make a story happen? A fashion segment that went awry. Two models dropped out the morning of and a good PR contact of mine made sure to snag two interns from the office to fit the bill an hour before we went live, instead of just saying there was nothing she can do. We always appreciate someone going the extra mile, even in a case where we can’t make use of the suggestion. I also appreciate not even being pitched but being asked. For example, what are you working on and can we help provide a source or a location? That kind of help really builds relationships.