Let’s Talk About Herpes…

Some title, huh? That was the subject line of an emailed story pitch I received this week. I was tempted to reply, “thanks, but I already had crabs for dinner last night.” But that’s just a joke I saved for myself.

One of the best reasons for being a reporter is the free education you receive. Over the course of 47 years at this I’ve learned everything from how to genetically alter tomatoes to the “joys” of consuming sautéed bulls testicles to steering cockroaches to, yes, information related to sexually transmitted diseases. Such is a the life of a so-called “general assignment” reporter.

However, when you’re on a specific beat, as I have been for the past 30 years that’s the focus of your efforts and that should also be the focus of a PR person’s story pitches. Light research into what a reporter covers can save everyone lots of wasted time, effort and disappointment.

Here’s another example of an actual pitch I received recently, obviously from a PR person who has no idea that my beat is the auto industry.

“HelloI understand that you may be inundated with similar requests, but truly hope that you’ll find the time to review and write about TAIMI – the world’s largest LGBTQI+ platform that features dating and social networking.”

Being the wiseass I am, I was poised to reply with something like, “thanks a lot for reaching out to me with your story idea. Since I cover the auto industry exclusively, do you have information regarding LBBTQI+ dating and social networking activities that take place in vehicles?”

In the past month or so, I’ve received similarly mis-targeted pitches including one promoting a story on an “expert” who could expound on the “wonders of dust-free ceramic tile.” I have to admit I was pretty fascinated by that, but since we’re only on this Earth for a relatively short time, I chose not to spend even a moment of that time pursuing a story I would not be permitted to write.

Oh, and just this morning I received this one: “New data: Consumers are adjusting behaviors to avoid public restrooms.” I guess that could be relevant to autos if I worked it into something regarding the paucity of places to pee during long car trips.

Indeed, time spent is at the crux of the issue. Time must be spent researching the targets of your pitches to make sure the reporter or news organization actually covers the subject matter, and reporters don’t have time to wade through pitches that have no relevance to their coverage area or beat. But man, I keep wondering about how great that dust-free ceramic tile story coulda been…and maybe I could have worked a lead on how the large back seats of full-size SUVs contribute to activities related to the contraction of herpes.

Hah! Maybe I just need to be a little more open-minded.

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