Last week, I had the pleasure of listening to two of the most influential gatekeepers in business media (both of The Wall Street Journal): Dennis Berman, Marketplace editor and Francesco Guerrera, Money & Investing editor. Dennis and Francesco were invited to speak as part of a monthly “Meet the Editors” series hosted by Gorkana.
During the session, the two discussed several topics some of which included how 50% of their time is devoted to deciding what goes on the website, how their reporters are expected to be working on feature articles and next-day articles simultaneously and how they generally resist accepting embargoed stories.
But what I found most interesting was when the conversation turned to the relationship between PR professionals and journalists. Dennis said he feels PR pros have become “too passive” in their pitching and need to do a better job of showing him we really care about the pitch. Sending an email and occasionally following up with a phone call is “lame” in his view. “Is that the best you can do?” he asked the audience of PR practitioners. He said that “sometimes it feels that we’ve lost the will and urge to advocate for our clients.”
This was not the guidance I was expecting at all. In countless blog posts, I’ve read about how annoying PR people can be and how some journalists are begging us (or threatening us) to stop contacting them. Was Dennis asking us to call him more? That couldn’t be right, so I had to ask…where’s the line between pitching what we genuinely feel is a relevant source or story and becoming a nuisance?
Dennis and Francesco each gave two word answers respectively: “Three calls.” and “You’ll know.”
This got a hearty chuckle from the crowd before Dennis elaborated briefly – it’s a judgment call, of course. But don’t give up too easily, either. Don’t take their first “no” and walk away. Talk about it some more, try to find out what it is about the pitch that they don’t love and find a way to make it better. Fight for your pitch. And sometimes, know when to move on to the next one.