Blame it on your mother-in-law

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PR people who come to my workshops often say the same thing when I ask why they’re approaching a pitch in a certain way.

Like, “Why do you introduce yourself in the first sentence?” or “Why are you including everyone’s job title?”

First they pause and have to think about it. Then they usually say, “That’s the way my first boss always did it.”

Reminds me of a story I heard about this guy after he got married. When his wife cooked Sunday dinner, she would serve the ham with both ends cut off. He asked his her why and she responded “it brings out the flavor better.” That didn’t make sense to him, and he was still curious. When he pressed her, she got exasperated and said, “Ask my mother, that’s how she did it when I was growing up.”

Next time they got together with his in-laws, he asked his wife’s mother why she used to cook ham with the ends cut off.  She said:

“Because it wouldn’t fit in the little oven we had back then.”

Makes you wonder what you might do just because that’s how it was handed down. Whether someone actually taught you an outmoded practice, or whether you picked it up by osmosis.

Back to the examples at the top that I cover during my workshops:

-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, that’s a relic of sending news releases by fax, when people felt bound to write a full story out in AP style. Now with a pitch, you merely want to intrigue the journalist – they can get titles from clicking on a link or your follow-up info. Most of the time they don’t really care anyway.

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 four weeks. I recently got this really nice email from someone who took a previous version:

I have scored some huge media wins. I sometimes have a hard time coming up with ideas for what to pitch, but definitely have done much better finding reporters writing about topics related to what we’re doing and pitching them a compelling email, and getting coverage. Thank you! Just in the past two years, I’ve gotten: USA Today, Associated Press, NBC News, CNN Espanol, Inc., Forbes, NASDAQ, MSN, Reader’s Digest, U.S. News and World Report, Military Times, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Yahoo, Working Mother, Fox News, Federal Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Moneyish, MarketWatch, Huffington Post, The Hill, Mashable, Upworthy, New York Post, Catalyst, and others. 

– Amanda Ponzar, Chief Communications Officer, Community Health Charities

Check out the list of everything we’ll cover. The last five workshops have sold out, so if you’re interested, make your decision soon.

Hope to see you in Atlanta!

This article was originally published on Feb 20, 2019.