Being efficient is an art — which I certainly haven’t yet mastered. One of the biggest time consumers for journalists is wading through our email inboxes, trying to establish at a glance where we might find the goods.
I’ve been told that some newspaper editors get thousands of emails per day. As a freelance writer in a specialist area, I receive about 50 emails a day from PRs, sometimes more. It’s still a lot considering that I can only work on a handful of stories at any one time and my forward-planning is limited.
I’m aware that a great deal of time and effort has gone into any press release — planning, writing, proofing, signing off copy with clients, hiring the staff in the first place. Not to mention the energy / environmental cost of a mass mail-out.
Which makes it all the more sad that, most days, the majority of these emails are immediately spiked because they are so completely off the mark, sent to me “just in case” or because the distribution list has been bought, but not checked for suitability.
What a waste of time, money and effort, especially when the sender “circles back” or “reaches out” (I cringe at those phrases) a few days later to find out if said mailing was of interest to me or “my team”.
I work alone, and write about skiing, adventure travel and occasionally some health and fitness. But some of the more off-target releases I received this week have varied from sex toys to cyber security. In hindsight, I guess the sex toys sat loosely under the heading of ‘health’ but very loosely.
I have some fantastic relationships with PRs who I have got to know over the years. They know that I don’t live in London (so can’t pop out for a coffee) and I know I can rely on them for a great story. I see their name in my inbox and it stands out a mile among the plethora of emails about city hotels, makeup, instagrammable sights and other such off-the-mark news for an adventure travel writer.
As far as I’m aware, I’m only registered with Roxhill — I removed myself from other media agencies because my details were being sold globally to PRs totally unrelated to my specialists subjects. Their bio, which has taken time and effort, describes my area of work accurately and says I much prefer a personal approach.
In this time-poor world, of course we don’t always have the means to research every individual we contact, but in the same way I research an editor to whom I plan to pitch, I’d love it if more PRs considered doing the same with writers. In the same way an editor I’ve personally gone to meet will remember my name when I email them, any PR who has taken the time and effort to research me and has made personal contact is likely to find it is time well spent.
The thing is, an unwanted email can do more harm than just ending up in trash. At the wrong time, it can be downright annoying especially when it is sent in response to a very specific call out for stories or duplicated multiple times (like one this week) because my name cropped up on several different lists.
I’m not trying to say anyone is lazy — we live in a tough world and I know there are any number of reasons for the miscommunication. This was brought home recently when I replied to an ill-fired email asking to be removed from their mailing list altogether.
Aghast, the sender (a PR executive) replied that she had been largely self-taught since her “experienced boss” was too busy to help and mentor her.
This is a problem probably exacerbated by home working, but it struck me as a waste of time, money and effort and seemed sad for someone starting out. So I emailed her some friendly advice and was rewarded by being told I’m “cool” — which doesn’t happen every day!
Everyone is pressed for time and budget in this splintering media world but sometimes less is more. A little research and personal contact might pay off with more of your client news reaching publication.