Bad pitches … bad interview requests
Catching Flack posts about Dear PR Flack, a new blog that outs bad pitches to bloggers. I agree that pitching isn’t as simple as it may look. It takes time and care and research and when us publicists slack off, it shows — and it understandably annoys journalists. But the knife cuts both ways. I can’t tell you how many times I get interview requests consisting of: “I’d like to interview John Smith. Please let me know his availability.” No deadline information. No information about the media venue. No information about the story. So instead of zipping over the request to my author, I then have to engage in a time-consuming back and forth with the journalist about what exactly they need by when. Most of the time, I’m the one looking up media venues on the Internet, checking Bacon’s Online for circulation figures and Googling reporters so I can give my author pertinent information about the interview request.
Since I find myself repeatedly asking the same questions to flesh out skimpy interview requests, I thought I’d write out the questions once and for all so I (and you) can reuse them as you see fit:
- What is the story about? (Believe it or not, I often don’t even get this much information.)
- When is your deadline? (Ditto.)
- Do you have a date(s) (or date range) / time(s) in mind?
- How much time do you need with the author?
- Can you tell me something about your publication / website / show (if it’s not well known)? One New York radio producer with whom I work always pastes a paragraph of information about her show / radio network into each request — it details the ranking of the show and how widely it is syndicated across the country and also briefly includes her more subjective commentary on the show. Although I’m familiar with this information, the fact that she includes this with each request means all I have to do is forward the message on to my author (or another publicist, if necessary), and they see everything they need to know.
- What is your circulation / rating / ranking? (Again, this would apply to less well-known media venues.)
- What is your phone number? (So many journalists are deathly afraid of being pitched by phone that many do not include phone numbers in their messages. That’s all well and good, but if you’re asking me for something, the least you can do is provide me with a couple ways to get back to you.)
- If the author can’t speak with you before your deadline, are you interested in scheduling an interview down the line?
- For the larger organizations, do you need to have an exclusive interview / be the first interview?
For print / online:
- Do you need to speak with the author or can you email questions?
- Is the interview live or taped? If the interview is live, is there listener call in?
- If the interview is taped, do you know when it might air?
- Can you conduct the interview by phone or does the author need to go to a local studio?
- Who is the host?
- Can you conduct the interview from a studio in [author’s hometown]? Will you make arrangements to get the author there and back or will the publishing house / author need to take care of that?
- Who is the host?
- For which publications do you write?
These questions primarily apply to requests for non-touring authors (since there are various other situations that affect touring authors) and deal with the preliminary stages of scheduling interviews. (Once an interview has been scheduled, there are, obviously, additional details / questions that must be worked out.) Feel free to submit your own general questions and I can add them to the post.
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Fall 2012: I’ve really enjoyed writing about book publicity and meeting (0nline and in person) writers, publicists, editors, agents and others in the publishing industry, but I’ve — reluctantly — come to the conclusion that I just don’t have the time to maintain this blog.
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