When I question PR practitioners about their pitching habits, they often respond in the same way. It goes like this:
After I ask “Why do you introduce yourself in the first sentence?” or “Why are you including everyone’s job title?” in one of my workshops, they’ll pause and usually say, “That’s the way my first boss always did it.”
This reminds me of an old story I once heard about a newly-married couple. When the wife cooked ham for Sunday dinner, she would always, without fail, serve it with both ends cut off. A bit befuddled, the husband asked why she did this. She responded: “It brings out the flavor better.”
That answer didn’t make sense to him. He was still curious. So, he asked her again, and she exasperatedly said: “Ask my mother, that’s how she did it when I was growing up.”
So, the next time they got together with her parents, he questioned his mother-in-law on why she sliced the ends off the ham. Her answer? “Because it wouldn’t fit in the little oven we had back then,” she said.
The moral of this story is: Sometimes we do things a certain way simply because they’re archaic habits passed down to us.
Modernizing your media relations
At my workshop, I remind my budding media relations masters that it’s important to consider the present-day effectiveness of any practice. For instance:
• Introducing yourself first in an email pitch is a holdover from the days when most pitching was done over the phone. With email, journalists can see who you are in your signature and they want you to get right to the point.
• Including job titles in a pitch is a relic of sending news releases by fax. Now with a pitch, you merely want to intrigue the journalist — they can get titles from clicking on a link or in a follow-up email.
It’s important to compare these outdated routines and how they can hinder your pitching success to the baked ham in that old story: If you always cut the ends off out of habit, then you’ll never know the true capacity of the oven.
I’ll go way deeper into the strategy and psychology of media relationship building — plus some brand new stuff I’ve added this year — at my next “Secrets of Media Relations Masters” workshop coming up in Atlanta on March 21-22.
Michael Smart teaches PR professionals how to dramatically increase their positive media placements. He’s engaged regularly by organizations like General Motors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Georgia Tech to help their media relations teams reach new levels of success. Get more media pitching knowledge from Michael Smart here.