A real estate agent recently hand wrote a note, scanned it into his computer and stuffed the resultant graphics file into his emailer, which fired it off to a reporter.
The handwriting was nearly illegible, the physical size of the file made it difficult to read a sentence without scrolling back and forth, and the file's memory requirements choked the reporter's email box and eventually brought the PC to its digital knees.
The reporter couldn't delete the email fast enough.
The realty agent might as well have used a chisel and stone, which would have wasted a like amount of time (which is money) for both the reporter and the agent.
Computer technology is a valuable tool that makes it easier, faster and more economical to pitch a story, if you learn how to use even the most basic features and integrate that skill into sound public relations practices.
If you are an industry source for the media, if you know your facts and can articulate them without pitching yourself or your product, you are invaluable to the media. When readers see you quoted as a knowledgeable source, by association, they also view you as credible.
Credibility moves a lot of widgets without a hard sell.
If however, you are techno-dweeb who doesn't know a PC from BCC, you've just lost your edge in this hurry-up, get-it-to-me-yesterday, 24-7-365 world of news and information.
From a disgruntled journalist who spends as much time helping sources get it right as he does trying to get the story right, here's the self-serving (it will make my job easier) scoop on getting the media to swing at your pitches.
Typing For Dollars
Learn how to type, doggone it. That's why your computer comes with a keyboard. Chickens hunt and peck. Anyone who has used a No. 2 knows the knot extensive handwriting puts on your middle finger. Typing at just 30 words per minute is an invaluable skill that can be learned in weeks with daily half-hour lessons from dirt-cheap and entertaining learn-to-type software. Typing tutorial tomes also remain available for a song. At the very least, for the love of microphone, use voice technology and tell your computer what to type. Along with the telephone, typing is how homo sapiens today use technology to communicate.
Some Like It Hot
Use "hot links" in your electronic missives, digital press releases and online documents. Using basic HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), a hot link is a word, phrase or the actual HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) address or location that, when clicked, will open another document.
Whenever possible, the hot link should direct the media directly and specifically to the document at hand, not to the home page, index page, press page or some other general location of a massive website that forces a reporter on deadline to hunt for the data.
Too often, press releases contain information about juicy reports, studies and surveys without a hot link or any direction whatsoever to the original document. Journalists need to verify the information in the press report and there may be an angle in the report the press release writer didn't consider. Many electronic journalists, those who publish online, also need to include the hot link in the story as a sort of digital "according to" attribution that gives the reader additional information.
I Don't Need No Stinkin' CCs
"CC" used to stand only for "carbon copy" when sending printed duplicates. Today, it also means an identical email was sent to more than one person.
When you use CC every email recipient can see all the other recipients' names and worse, their email addresses. It's a privacy issue. It's an anti-spam harvesting issue. It's annoying if you have to scroll through a long list of names. It's a nuisance if someone who has been CC'd inadvertently hits the "Reply All" button. It's also a matter of good, basic email etiquette.
If you use CC you could also put a dent in your credibility as an exclusive source because John Doe at the Daily Bugle will know his competition, Jane Doe at the Daily Bulletin, also got your "exclusive."
Instead, when copying email to more than one recipient use your email client's "BCC" or blind carbon copy feature, which takes a little getting used to, but once you've mastered it, each recipient will see only his or her name and email address and one other name and or email address, preferably yours.
To use BCC, you must put each individual email address in the BCC field (rather than "TO" or "CC") or, if you use a mailing list or group, put the mailing list name next to the BCC indicator. Many email clients still require you to include at least one "TO" recipient for the BCC feature to work properly. Typically, that's where you enter your own email address.
Wha Choo Talkin' 'Bout, Willis?
If you hit the reply button to reply to an email but the contents of the email to which you are replying does not show up in your email reply window, your email client's settings are less than optimal.
Your email client can automate this process, but your recipient needs to know the context of your reply. That's because each member of the media typically sends out scores of email a day and -- especially the ones among us who are aging baby boomers -- they don't always recall what they asked in the heat of a multiple deadline day. If you or an assistant can't configure your email to automatically include the contents of the email to which you are replying, cut and paste it. It only takes moments.
Please Don't Go
If you send what you believe is major, breaking or timely news story, don't email it off and then walk away from your desk. Stick around for a while. If the media also believe your news is urgent they likely will be in touch soon and will need to reach you. Plan your public relations efforts with someone who will be available to take reporters' calls and email. Too often, a reporter is left wondering why a news source bothered to send urgent information via "alert" yellow background email (Don't use yellow or any other color. Keep it white to reduce eye strain.) if someone is not immediately available to take calls.
It's Okay To Cheat
Everyone who answers the phone at your company should be knowledgeable about basic, day-to-day company operations and background information -- names, telephone numbers, job titles, products, services, prices, rates, "about" information, etc. If you are a regular spokesman, can some quotes about current news events and add it to the cheat sheet. Leave your cell phone number. Cheat sheets left near every phone or informative documents that quickly can be called up from any computer helps plug the information gap and save a lot of time. No reporter wants to wait for you to get back to the office just to get the correct spelling of your name.
Tell Journalists To Buzz Off
If you choose not to reply to an email, telephone call or a journalist sitting on your stoop, say so. Don't leave the media hanging. If you've specifically been asked for comments, but choose not to reply, be courteous, say so. The next time you may want to comment, but may not get the opportunity because of your previous aloofness.