How To Chat Up Writers

    February 23, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Reporters, bloggers, journalists, writers, authors, call us whatever you like, but when you do call, please bring something of interest to the table.

Much has been made recently of getting the attention of prominent bloggers. The farther one goes up the food chain, to the lofty heights occupied by the Battelles and Scobles and Rubels of the world, the greater the volume of requests for one’s time.

It goes on at all levels of media. If one has any measure of audience, there will be pleasant public relations folks who pass along emails and make phone calls seeking an audience for their clients.

The overwhelming majority of PR people I’ve encountered understand pushiness doesn’t work. They make contact, make their pitch, and move on with whatever contact is next on their plate. Leaning on writers who are pressed for time essentially guarantees a rejection; in our minds, it’s a small victory over oppression. Strange, but there it is.

A businessperson should never try to trick a writer into hearing a pitch. That tarnishes not just your personal rep, but the company’s. Writers see trickery, flattery, and over-aggressive pitches as cause for ignoring you, at minimum.

Let’s say you have made it past the spam filters, overflowed inbox, and let’s face it, the generally rotten attitude writers have. The phone call has been scheduled, the PR person will bring the executive and the writer together for a conference call on such and such a date.

And you, my dear entrepreneur, blow it. The story you hoped would appear online never does, as an editor repays a small favor done by the writer by killing it. What did you do wrong?

Here is a helpful list of suggestions for that next phone interview. First and foremost, bring something original to the discussion. We understand about Reg FD, embargoes, trade secrets, and stuff under NDA that cannot be discussed yet. That is not a problem.

If your sole purpose is to regurgitate the white paper/press release the writer already has, you waste the writer’s time and your own. Nothing irritates a writer more than someone who claims expertise in a field yet won’t stake an informed opinion on that area.

In the tech field, writers who cover it understand the passion and desire entrepreneurs have about their newest product or service. We get this. There is no such thing as a pessimistic entrepreneur.

For those delightfully passionate people, I have a one-word suggestion. Brevity. You’re excited to talk, at length and in great detail about how you plan to change the world. That’s great. But please, answer the question directly, and add detail that proves or reinforces your answer if needed.

Remember what Mom said about honesty being the best policy? That’s very true in the Internet era, where people can readily expose falsehoods in even the most obscure knowledge niches.

Be truthful, or just say no comment. It’s not a big deal.

To summarize, bring something of interest to the interview beyond what the writer likely knows already. When answering questions, be Hemingway instead of Faulkner (or worse, Jason Lee Miller). And always be truthful. You may just make a favorable impression that comes across in a story.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.