It’s not me, it’s you

Single women the world over have, since the beginning of time – or at least since the telephone was invented – wondered why guys always promise to call the next day after a seemingly successful date, yet very rarely do.

 Greg Behrendt, a former Sex and the City story editor, last year broke the news to women as to why, with a brutally honest book titled He’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth.

 Written in the form of letters to the author, the book spells out in plain English the answers to the mysteries that confound the dating female, such as why men seem so interested one day yet so cold and distant the next.

 According to Behrendt, women make all kinds of excuses to themselves for men’s failure to live up to their expectations because it’s easier than facing the reality that if they don’t call immediately, nine times out of 10 it’s because they don’t want to. (That other time was probably because he was in a car accident and is actually in a coma.)

 The tome opens with this to-the-point piece of advice: “He’s just not that into you if he’s not asking you out. Because if he likes you, trust me, he’ll ask you out … If we want you, we will find you. If you don’t think you gave him enough time to notice you, take the time it took you to notice him and cut it by half.”

What does this all have to do with PR professionals in the IT industry? A lot more than you might think — or hope.

As Behrendt points out in the chapter titled He’s just not that in to you if he’s not calling you, here’s the cold, cruel truth about the relationship between the PR professional and the tech journalist: if you send us a press release and we don’t respond, it’s not because we didn’t get it, unless, of course, it bounced back or our e-mail server was down, which happens only rarely. If you follow up with the same press release, this time marked urgent, and we still don’t respond, there’s probably no point in following up the follow-up with a follow-up phone call. At that point, we are going to do what men everywhere do – hide from you, thanks to call display.

 Of course, it’s nothing personal. In the IT journalist’s case, nine times out of 10 we don’t respond because the pitch is just inappropriate for our readership. Or we don’t have time for it, or it’s just not that important in terms of news value.

 Unfortunately for the PR professional, this relationship, much like the male-female dynamic described in Behrendt’s guide, is lopsided in terms of power.

The trick for you is to show us why we as gatekeepers of the readers’ interests need you, as gatekeepers of your clients’ interests, just as much.

 The problem is that while none of us wishes to be rude or unprofessional, the reality is that we all have to deal with more e-mail every day. If that time is compounded by answering – or worse, returning – phone calls about the email about the e-mail, precious little time is left to actually write any of those stories.

 That’s why the best strategy you can take to pique our interest is by sending press releases targeted to our readership with actual news value. Because every time you send releases that don’t, or hound us with follow-ups to follow-ups, our interest wanes. And accept that sometimes, even if the pitch is dead-on, we might not have the resources to cover it, at least at that moment.

 So next time you send a press release, think of it as a date. If we respond, it’s because we’re interested. If not, well, let me reword the introduction to Behrendt’s book:

“Many (PR people) have said (journalists) run the world. Wow. That makes us sound pretty capable. So tell me, why would you think we’re incapable of something as simple as picking up a phone? Let me remind you: (journalists) find it very satisfying to get what they want. (Particularly after a difficult day of running the world.)”

 Kathleen Sibley is the editor of Technology in Government.

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