went to the Buzz 2000 conference in San Francisco this week to hear about the promised "new rules for PR", "cost effective PR tactics", and about how to create a buzz using Public Relations. Those things weren't delivered, but we did pick up a lot of valuable insights about what you should think about when doing PR when the press is your target audience.

We broken this down into 4 sections based on the topics discussed.


The following comments are based on a set of journalists. These included: Amy Bernstein (Editor, The Industry Standard), Steven Levy (Senior Editor, Newsweek), John Markoff (Senior Writer, New York Times), Scott Rosenberg (Editor,

After reading these comments, take a look at the some of the pitches received by Allen Weiss (who writes for, and see if they meet these stringent requirements.

  • Don't pretend familiarity if you don't have it - don't send us email that sounds like you know us when you in fact don't
  • If we're going to talk to a PR agency, we want to talk to supervisors and upper managers of PR, but we usually talk with junior account managers.
  • You have to realize that we make decisions based on what our readers want to see, or what we like to write about - so before sending us email about your company, make sure you really understand what we write!!!
  • Remember that journalists tend to be skeptical
  • What we look for in a pitch
    • Conflicts, obstacles, drama, trends (but don't be too abstract)
    • Put the company within a broader trend story, to us the Story is everything
    • Use statistics and graphs if possible
  • We think that PR agencies should manage their client's expectations about getting stories in the news - clients must understand that it is often difficult to get mentioned in the top news outlets
  • Recommendation to Agencies: Don't start at the top publications - build "circles of interest" or circles outward - start with highly targeted publications before going to the broad interest ones


These points are based on the comments of several agencies at the conference.

  • We agree with the journalists that you should know your audience - know whether you're pitching to a columnist, a reporter, or editor
    • Reporters typically want straight news
    • Columnists are pressed to come up with ideas - so "pitch the trend" or the "big story", not just your client's company
    • Editors - you have to do analysis of what they run and don't run (go far beyond the mission statement of the news outlet) - senior editors respond to that homework!
  • You really need to internalize the skepticism of writers - remember you can't manipulate the press
  • Spend more time with your client's CEO (to educate them about the limits and abilities of PR). Teach them about media elements to use and when, how to get through to technical editors, etc.
  • Get information from customers, sales, skeptics and others and feed to the PR agency
  • Look at conferences, industry tracks that focus on the trend and sponsor that track


  • You don't need PR agency when your company is targeting a vertical audience - in those situations it's easier to meet editors in specialized magazines.
  • Always look for agencies with senior experienced people
  • Ask if they will work on your account (make sure they're not jaded or cynical)
  • Make sure you feel comfortable with them
  • Always ask who does the talking with reporters (remember the comments of the journalists above)
  • Make sure you really understand how they charge (for example, if on retainer, do they provide a service level agreement? Will they fully explain excess charges?)

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image of Allen Weiss

Allen Weiss is the CEO and founder of MarketingProfs. He's also a longtime marketing professor and mentor at the University of Southern California, where he leads Mindful USC, its mindfulness center.