12 March 2007

Blind leading the blind….

We’re going back a bit here, but Richard ‘I-still-haven’t-bothered-defending-myself-even-though-I’ve-taken-a-right-slating’ Millington and Sally ‘I’m-still-flogging 101” Flood nee Whittle had a lovely-though-slightly-pointless conversation about the best way of personalising a generic ‘send to all’ news release.

After a long 47 weeks and 4 days career, Richard’s insightful advice was:

I thought I would share a quick outlook trick i've found useful.

Step 1) Goto tools > Spelling > always check before sending (this should be on anyway).
Step 2) Write the brief introduction to the press release which references the magazine and/or why this is relevant to them
Step 3) Copy/paste your press release into the body of the e-mail at the bottom.
Step 4) Remove the contact name and put something like "D$%^S" then remove all references to any individual publication and put "Anss342".
Step 5) Now copy the whole body of the e-mail.You can now click/enter the e-mail of any contact, paste the copy into the e-mail and hit send. Then the spellchecker will prompt you to enter both the name of the contact at the top to replace D$%^S and then the publication name of "Anss342".

Not one to miss an opportunity to plug 101, Sally told Richard (who she described as “quite a smart fellow,” so you can draw your own conclusions) that he was talking bollocks and suggested the following:

1. Paste your press release into the email (try not to attach it, if possible).
2. At the top of the email address the writer by name.
3. Next, tell me what the story is. Not the heading of the press release, the story.
4. Then, tell me why this is a story for me. (how would this paper use this story)
5. Finally, tell me why I should include your client in this story

This should only take a couple of minutes if you know your markets. But the key thing to note is that your spiel would be vastly different if you're pitching to the Guardian's small business supplement versus, say, the enterprise IT manager who reads Computing. Or the public sector guy reading The Doctor. Or the science geek reading New Scientist.

Now, it is useful to remember at this point that this is a conversation between two people that don’t do PR (Sally is a journalist and Richard, with his 47 weeks of experience, to be brutally honest, does coverage boards).

So, to Richard’s point: Use mail merge, dopey. It’ll piss all over your personal best of 60+ contacts in less than thirty minutes.

To Sally’s point: Don’t confuse “news release” with “email pitch” otherwise you’ll be in a land of madness with opening paragraphs such as:

“Hi Bob, Here’s a news release about Microsoft buying SAP, I thought it might be useful for the news section in [insert IT trade mag].”

So, to clear up any confusion, here are TWL’s top tips for personalising the distribution of a news release:

1. Hire an sensible person who acknowledges the importance of walking before running
2. Teach them how to use the software on their computer
3. Get them to send it out
4. While you write sarcastic blog posts, anonymously


Anonymous said...

And on that subject, does anyone have any information as to the whereabouts of Ms Whittle (I believe she threw out the Flood nomenclature around the same time she threw out hapless spouse Gary)? No postings on her blog since 16 February.

Paul said...

What is the point of writing an email pitch for a press release? It's a total waste of time and I've gone grey trying to get my teams to stop doing it.

If you believe the release will be of real - note this is real-world read not PR real - interest you should be on the phone pronto, not trying to compose another 250 words to stick at the top. If the release doesn't tell the story on its own then re-write the f*cker until it does.

And Richard; please, please, please start blogging about something other than work. Are you a keen canoeist? Do you enjoy the works of Debussy? Have you ever handled a rugby ball? What's your opinion on dried herbs as opposed to fresh?

I like you mate, I really do. I've read your blog, you seem like a nice kid, but you have absolutely zero idea about good PR practice and everytime I read your blog my arse clenches. It's like watching a Gareth Hunt Nescafe advert. Please stop.

Anonymous said...

Hell, I'm only a humble hack, but it strikes me that for someone so inept/naive/inexperienced, young Mr Millington is stimulating a lot of debate. He's now appeared on two separate TWL's posts as well as Sally Whittle's blog - not bad going for sprog from the sticks.

His views may be risible but he's already generated more traffic than 95% of the press releases sent to me do - maybe he could teach some more experienced PR hands their way round the Web because, quite frankly, there are plenty who need it.

....the world's leading.... said...

Yes, that's true...we could all learn from Mr Millington and advise our clients to spout some poorly thought out sexist claptrap and, perhaps, some advice on how to wipe one's own arse in the most time-effective manner.

Sure to generate some coverage and spark some debate, but we're not sure it's the sort of attention the client would be after.

These days, most of us understand that not all publicity is good publicity...

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see Richard may be getting regretful in his advancing years...