I'm not a big fan of negativity, but sometimes it's just as valuable -- if not more so -- to know what not to do in work than to know what to do. But over the last few months I feel like some of the publicists who are stepping up to pitch me and my writer friends are forgetting some of the key tenets of their profession. Understand it's not my intention to speak out of school or even say anyone who does these things are "bad" publicists, but these habits most definitely are.
So, if you're thinking of becoming a publicist, heed. Your recipients and all those who hear your megaphone messages will hear them that much clearer.
Tell the interviewee what the angle is. Once the interview has been greenlit and you're good to go, do your client -- and the writer -- a great big favor by actually telling them what it is they're going to be discussing if it's anything out of the norm. I have built my career doing interviews that aren't cookie-cutter "so tell me about your latest project" stuff, so I am aware I run into this a lot more than many, but if you're a publicist you should care about what's going out in the media. If the client's not onboard, don't greenlight it. If your client can't be bothered to sign off on his interviews, maybe don't have them do interviews.
Unclear or badly worded pitches. What are you pitching, exactly? Can you say it in a sentence? If not, why should you expect writers to read dozens and dozens of them when you lose them out of the gate? Some of the same rules journalists follow apply to publicists: Don't bury the lead. What are you asking for exactly? A video embed? Confirmation that the writer received what you mailed them? Just a friendly reminder that the show, product launch or whatever is coming up? Make it clear. Make your point and then make a hasty retreat -- a surgical strike is best here because remember yours isn't the only email in their inbox.
Don't be a robot. You're communicating with a person, so be a person. We can tell our names are just being spat out in the email subject by a heartless PR program, so don't think that's enough to cut it as being personable. Be friendly, be kind and don't be a jerk if your pitch gets turned down. There are unseen editors and factors that weigh into all coverage factors. Also, burn a writer once and they will remember it and be that much less likely to want to help you out down the road. That path to harmonious bliss between a publicist and a writer is a lot like any other relationship: be honest and open.
When you're scheduling an interview, schedule it. Don't let it die on the vine. Don't leave it up to the writer to ping you later, unless you want them to. And do remember other people live in other time zones. There's no such thing as being too anal in arranging the all-important interview. Well, maybe there is, but don't be sloppy or lazy about it.
Don't wait until the last minute. There's a reason they call them deadlines. If you wait too long to not properly build buzz, you have no one to blame but yourself. A tossed off blurb on a website or magazine the day of or day before whatever you're hustling isn't gonna do much. It's like cramming the morning of the big test, only you'll definitely fail. And lose money. And maybe get fired. And you don't want that.
Now. Go. Go forth and pitch. Make a triumphant noise to the world.
David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.