2 or 3 things I (stilll don't) know about PR
May 1, 2014 5:37 AM   Subscribe

I now have a newfound respect for PR and the rules of engagement. I took your advice and narrowed down my contact list from 800. I'm individually emailing journalists, bloggers and editors, asking them to list us in their calendars or mention us in a blog post. So far I'm not getting any response. This is bad, right?

A ton of thanks, Mefites, for the really helpful advice I received in my last question. Here are, actually, 4 things I still don't understand:

1) Do the media usually not respond to a listing request even if they plan to list your event? Should I even follow up on listings requests? Is it better to call or email the follow-up?

2) I haven't been including my last name in releases and emails. Does that look bad and/or discourage the press from responding? To be honest, I've been concerned about developing relationships with editors as a PR person since I may find myself pitching to them in the future as a journalist. Also, a couple of volunteers have been helping me email the media and I can't watch everything that goes out with my name on it.

3) I'm still a bit confused about the etiquette of email blasts. Everyone says its spam and yet people use distribution services like PRWeb and PR Newswire to send out multiple releases. See this askme. Would it make sense for me to use a distribution service to spread the word about a music festival? If so which is the best suited?

4) How do I handle the fact that the festival keeps changing (number of events, performers, etc, cost of festival, etc). Can I just update the Events release on our website (clearly marking it UPDATED) or do I have to call it a CORRECTION each time?

Thanks again for any advice you can offer!
posted by lillian.elmtree to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
1. No, no one will respond most likely, unless they are a fact-checking publication like the New Yorker, or sometimes the Times, if they have follow-ups.

2. Yes that's weird that you're not signing off with a full name.

3. It is spam. Mass emails require an unsubscribe function.

4. Oh my god do not email out a correction email every time things change. That's like, asking people NOT to cover it. Instead, why aren't you telling them what's exciting? "Hey, we just added a performance by this Chinese puppet troupe who've never performed in the U.S. before!"

In many ways I feel like you're better off running this through social media or a central website? That way there is a resource for people to go to. If people are not talking about your festival or not covering it in some way... I think that means no one is interested??? Which means you haven't given them a reason to care?

I really think that most of the feedback you got in that other post was that this kind of thing is done one by one, person by person.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:57 AM on May 1, 2014 [6 favorites]

Also, a couple of volunteers have been helping me email the media and I can't watch everything that goes out with my name on it.

What? Of course you can. You tell the volunteers that nothing goes out without your express signoff, and when inquiries come back, they go to you exclusively.

I did PR professionally for 5 years, and my mother has been in the biz about 40 years. I can't imagine letting a volunteer, intern, or minion running free to talk to my contacts.

I agree with RJ's comment wholeheartedly, as well. No one ever follows up on a listing request unless it's for fact checking, and, honestly, I never got the sense that listings people really cared that much for fact checking. Always use your full name! You're a professional representing your organization. I was active before CAN-SPAM, but yes, you really should be limited to people who have opted in, and you have to give an opt out link. For corrections, I think I did maybe two or three in my time in PR--it's really a horrible experience to go out with a release that's wrong. For updates, by contrast, you have to balance the pros and cons. I used to run the PR office of a film festival, and I might send out one update a day as the participants and celebrities changed, but that was more to a limited list (TV, radio, big web places) that would actually care about a new star coming the next day. For something like RJ's puppet troupe that's not a dead cert to get someone out of their news room (like Al Pacino is coming or something), bundle them together and send less frequently.

And of course, all your releases should say, "programming is subject to change/new events are still being scheduled (or whatever); visit our website for the most up-to-date information."
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:31 AM on May 1, 2014 [7 favorites]

I work both sides of this equation, writing press releases (but doing nothing with distribution) and managing requests for coverage as well as event listings. I have also written commercial PR releases for distribution to multiple towns and publications.

Putting out an event listing is still like putting out a regular release or even a resume. If you don't tailor it to the specific needs of someone's format, or pay attention to how they work, we are likely to ignore you. If you don't have the courtesy of paying attention to what we need, why should we pay attention to you?

Some examples:

--If you're sending it out via a distribution system (i.e., everyone has different formats), make the TITLE (festival)/SUBTITLE (event within the festival)/BRIEF DESCRIPTION/DATE/TIME/LOCATION/COST/WEB LINK as obvious as possible so the people on the other end can slot that into their own system.

--ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS have a link for more information. We have a limited amount of space and eschew overly effusive descriptions. We can't waste space on directions or RSVP instructions. And as a news aggregator for various populations in our large org, we want to be able to say, "Hey! Here's something cool happening this weekend." It could be as simple as a blog post or as complex as a dedicated site.

I am currently dealing with a music festival that has ignored basically all of this advice, which frosts me to no end. So last week they sent out a schedule of performers, in text form. They had something like 20 performers of multiple genres, but no link. It was impossible to spread that info.

If you don't have a link, I will often send back a request for more info. Many people don't even respond to that. It wastes everyone's time. Don't send a release unless you have a link.

--OH MY GOD why are you not putting your full name on there? ESPECIALLY when you have a ton of volunteers and interns working with you. Because I am a glutton for punishment, I will call you up and try to get the person who doesn't know how to submit things to do it correctly. If I can't reach someone, I'll probably write you off completely.

--If you don't enter all 15 events of your festival as a related series, we have to approve every single one separately. That takes time. That means that we have to set time aside to go through them: if you don't follow this formatting guideline, you probably need more editing in general. And THAT means that your event won't go up until later, if at all.

--In our particular system, the submitter can make changes to his or her own submitted event. If you post the event and it has no info (most basic: website link, particularly when things are TBA), that's super annoying but not the end of the world. But if you can't tidy up your listing yourself, we will want to tear our hair out.

The overall rule of thumb is that whoever is on the other end has absolutely no time to deal with you and your needs. Sad but true. Act accordingly.
posted by Madamina at 7:22 AM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

2. Yes that's weird that you're not signing off with a full name.

Totally. I know its the internets but be professional and fully engaged & put the last name in.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:06 AM on May 1, 2014

Also, a couple of volunteers have been helping me email the media and I can't watch everything that goes out with my name on it.

Yeah, if you literally can't (because....one of the volunteers lives in a different time zone? Or something?), then you have to change procedures or scheduling so that you can. Or make it so that the text is so templated that all the volunteers have to do is drop in the name/time/venue. If it has your name on it, you must know what it says. I work in a communications department but I am not your (or anyone else's) comms person, but boy do I see a lot of behind-the-scenes comms stuff. Nothing here gets sent out without review and approval from the people whose names will be on it, no matter who did the actual writing.
posted by rtha at 8:13 AM on May 1, 2014

Having worked for a newspaper as the guy who sorted press releases for a community calendar, I can assure you that I would never* have contacted you to let you know I received it. If I liked it, I would include it in the calendar, but that's all.

*Except for one guy who was so fascinating that I talked to him on the phone and ended up interviewing him for a special feature.
posted by tacodave at 3:53 PM on May 1, 2014

Thanks for your responses, Mefites, completing my crash course in PR. We did get press coverage beyond the usual, in TV, radio, print and online. It just all tumbled in at the last minute. I learned a lot, in part thanks to the advice I got here.
posted by lillian.elmtree at 5:14 AM on May 16, 2014

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