Hack to Flack is a monthly column by Lindsay Goldwert, a senior program executive at Hotwire, a global tech PR firm. Before she leapt to the dark side, Lindsay worked at the New York Daily News, ABCNews.com, CBSNews.com, CourtTV, Glamour and Redbook.
If there’s any profession that deserves a little TLC this month, it’s the print and online news business. Pink slips flew at the New York Daily News, buyouts reigned at the Post and the Village Voice imploded. The DOJ is breathing down the AP’s neck. Rumors are flying about layoffs at ESPN. I doubt there’s more than handful of newsrooms in the country where reporters and editors feel confident that their jobs, as they know them, will be there in 2014.
There’s been more than a few things written about how the PR industry needs to change in the face of the shrinking newsroom. But in a field that’s supposed to be built on “relationships,” I haven’t seen much empathy for the laid-off journalists. Strange, since we rely on their news judgment, good moods and spare moments to consider our stories and ideas for publication.
Consider what journalists do: They make it known that they’re interested in hearing about, say, new fitness apps. Then they get a deluge of emails from PR people who pitch them everything from fitness water, to fitness DVDs, to fitness instructors. “Maybe for a future story,” we say. That’s like you emailing your friends seeking a good housepainter and getting hundreds of responses for floor guys, electricians, roofers and custom closet makers “just in case.” That’s not good work — that’s telemarketing.
We all talk about “cutting through the noise.” Hail Mary pitches that only push your client’s agenda and don’t propose any real value to a reporter or editor are noise.
Here are some ways to make lives easier for journalists that can only benefit you and your clients in the end: