Most of my experience with PR people involves them cluttering my inbox with unwanted pitches. But yesterday I had a PR experience that was so positive that I thought it was worth sharing. In an ideal world, this is how most PR professionals would do their job.
I was working on a story about mattress shopping, so I sent out a tweet:
If anyone has experience in the mattress business and is willing to talk about it, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Timothy B. Lee (@binarybits) March 3, 2015
I was mostly hoping that a former mattress salesman would see it and give me an inside perspective on the negotiation process. But I was also interested in hearing from others with experience in the industry.
Just 90 minutes later, I got an email from Phil Krim, CEO of the mattress startup Casper:
How are you? Lindsay, our VP of Communications, sent me your tweet about
looking for mattress industry experts. I have had a great deal of
experience in the space. Anything I can do to help you?
I don’t know Lindsay Kaplan, Casper’s VP of communications, but she did two things that are rare in the PR world.
First, she paid attention to what I was doing and figured out a way to help me out. I was looking for information about the mattress business. Casper is in the mattress business. So talking to Casper’s CEO was actually useful to me.
It’s astonishing how rare this is. There are dozens of companies in the mattress business. Presumably all of them would like favorable press coverage. Yet Casper was the only company that noticed my tweet and got in touch with me.
And the email was written in a way that made my job easier. Krim didn’t send me a wall of text explaining how great Casper mattresses were. He just let me know that he was available to talk.
Second, Kaplan stayed out of the way. Instead of sending me an email offering to put me in touch with Krim, she had Krim email me directly. That signalled that Krim was actually interested in talking to me and actually available to talk. And he was — when I responded with my phone number, he called me in a few minutes.
I’m way more likely to respond to a personal email from a potential interview subject than I am to a PR person trying to arrange an interview for someone else. Long experience has taught me that these third-party pitches are usually a hassle to deal with. The subject might not actually be that interested in talking to me, or it might take several hours to find space on his calendar.
Kaplan’s work got results. If Krim hadn’t contacted me, I wouldn’t have written about Caplan or its “bed in a box” competitors, because I simply didn’t know they existed. Krim’s email (and subsequent phone interview) convinced me to learn more. And my independent research found that these companies had a lot of satisfied customers. So I wound up adding a whole section discussing this product category.
If you’re a PR person, you should be doing your job more like Lindsay Kaplan. Instead of sending out press releases indiscriminately, learn about the specific reporters who cover the topics you’re working on and look for opportunities to help them out. And don’t get in the way. Whenever possible, pitches should come directly from the would-be interview subject.