The best PR lesson I ever had came from a cranky reporter in Richmond, Virginia.
I was a young Public Relations Associate for Heritage Repertory Theatre, and I had called to "pitch" this reporter on seeing our production of The Show Off. This happened several years ago, but the conversation went something like this:
"Hi Mr. xxxix, my name is Chester Lee and I am calling from the Heritage Repertory Theater."
"I sent you a press release on our new production of The Show Off opening in two weeks and I thought you might want to do a news story about it."
"Ummm....The Show Off...its a play that was first done in the 30s..."
"Yeah, look you're a theater right?"
"Yes, we are a professional summer stock theater in Charlottesville..."
"Whatever. You're a theatre."
"And you are putting on a play."
"And I'm guessing since it was done in the 30s this play has been done a lot."
"Look, thats not news. I don't do stories when a car lot sells a car, so I'm not going to do a story when a theatre does a play, or a movie house shows a film, got it?"
"If you got news, send it to me. We're busy here. "
And that was the end of the conversation--and my first lesson in pitching and getting your press releases published.
While it was a little embarrassing, and a bit disheartening, I made a promise to myself that I would never contact a reporter again without a clear, concise story of interest to their readers.
Too often, the PR professional for an Arts Organization sends out the boilerplate Press Release--which is fine for the ABC listings, but if you want to generate PR for your organization you need to think like a reporter.