Want to know which PR pitches tickled Pogue? It’ll cost you!

Romenesko Misc. | Forbes.com
An email sent this morning by PR Daily publisher Ragan Communications promotes an upcoming $159 seminar (“Pitch me, Baby”) featuring “a video rebroadcast” of New York Times tech columnist David Pogue’s favorite PR pitches. The reader who forwarded the email to me writes:

It doesn’t seem right that a company is selling a presentation made by a New York Times journalist. I wonder if David Pogue knows they are doing that? It sounds like a great presentation, but should people be paying a third party for this?

Mark Ragan tells me that Pogue knows about the presentation, but the CEO declines to discuss compensation. (“Our transactions are private.”) He says Newsweek technology editor Dan Lyons also asked about the Pogue video event, “and he charges $10,000 per speaking gig. …Everyone uses Pogue as a pinata.” I’ve emailed the tech journalist for comment and will post his response when/if it comes in. || Jeff Bercovici: NYT prohibits staff from participating in PR workshops. The paper says Pogue’s editors “are discussing this outside engagement with him.” || Read the seminar pitch after the jump.

From: PR Daily
Date: June 27, 2011 8:24:51 AM EDT
Subject: NYT’s David Pogue on great PR pitching: This top tech columnist shares his favorite pitches

Dear PR/Media Relations Professional,

This should come as no news to you –

Most press releases do more damage than good. They’re loaded with buzzwords and corporate-speak that turn off most journalists.

In this video rebroadcast of our most popular 2011 media relations session, New York Times tech columnist David Pogue goes through the best and worst pitches he’s received.

“Pitch me, Baby!”
Monday, July 11
1:00 – 2:00 p.m. CT

For the low price of $159 ($139 if you’re a Ragan Select member), you’ll get the following invaluable instruction:
What you should NEVER do when pitching a reporter
Why you should be passionate about pitching perfection
Pogue’s five “pitch pet peeves”
How to be clever and imaginative when pitching a story (complete with David’s favorite examples)
Real-life pitches: the great, the good and the ugly

Can’t attend this live virtual event? Your registration includes a FREE DVD that you can watch at your desk or in a conference room with your co-workers.

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6KX2ORHOJE5MFPMAUEWOSKCSIA DavidF

    If people want to work for The Times, they should follow their rules even if some of them may be impractical.  When you go into journalism (at least when I did, in ancient times), you have to expect to make some sacrifices so you stay at arms length from current or potential sources.  You can’t buy stock in a company you cover, you don’t reveal your political views, etc., etc.  At least that’s the way it used to be. 

    I also think the PR forums are about appearances.  When the ad says that someone from The Times will be there, you’re naturally going to get PR people to sign up.  A placement in The Times is still the Holy Grail for a lot of PR people and I think they come to a session with Pogue fully expecting to learn how to do that (or at least to have a better shot).  Whether Pogue gets paid or not, he’s not there to guarantee placement of their stories for the $159 they’ve paid.  He’s only there to tell them how to tailor their pitches to have a better chance of placement — but with no guarantees whatsoever. And, as you’ve indicated, he has to be fairly general in his comments because the media are a moving target.  A good story pitch one week may be useless the next. 

    Most journalists go to these group discussions not because they want to guarantee story placements, but because they’re tired of dealing with bad PR people, with their poor writing and misguided pitches.  Reporters and editors go there to elevate the game and educate PR people and I don’t see anything wrong with that.  Anyone who thinks that journalists don’t depend on PR folks should think again.  The Times’ print edition would be a lot thinner without them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.bercovici Jeff Bercovici

    David, you have a point. There’s nothing especially insidious about the standard “Tell us what mistakes to avoid” panel/Q&A. In fact, I think I’ve participated in one or two myself over the years. But all I ever got for my trouble was a cold salmon entree and a pocketful of business cards. If Pogue made his presentation for PR Daily out of pure ethereal benevolence, that’s one thing. If he got paid for it, it’s a different deal. (In my view, that is. According to the Times guidelines, it’s not kosher either way.) If he didn’t get any monetary compensation for it, he ought to say so.

    And, really, he ought to knock off this sort of thing. Either he’s not making a lot of money from it, in which case it’s not worth the dent it puts in his image, or he IS making a lot of money from it, in which case one of the Times’s best-known writers is leveraging the institution’s prestige to propel his burgeoning career as a PR consultant. And that really is a problem.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6KX2ORHOJE5MFPMAUEWOSKCSIA DavidF

    Jeff, I wonder whether The Times’ rule is practical.  Reporter-editor panel discussions have been a mainstay for various PR organizations over the past few decades and I haven’t seen any ethical boundaries crossed by such events.  At a lot of these sessions, the journalists are often quite hard on the PR people (and sometimes rightfully so) about the proper way to formulate a story and pitch it.  Plus, I’m sure that not a day passes without some reporter or editor at The Times  telling a PR person what story works and what doesn’t, and why.   I mean, that kind of thing has been going on for years and, if handled properly by both parties, should not cross any journalistic or ethical boundaries.  What is The Times going to do?  Tap everyone’s phones and listen in on every conversation with a PR person?  Telling a PR person what topics interest you and how you’d like to receive the information does not constitute a “PR-type activity.”  It’s how journalists and PR people interact in the normal course of business.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.bercovici Jeff Bercovici

     The problem is the Times’s ethics rules very specifically prohibit advising “individuals or organizations on how to deal successfully with the news media.” You can’t do it at all, even if you don’t get paid. Whoever wrote the rules thought it was so important that journalists not engage in PR-type activities, they actually wrote a specific section about it rather than lump it in with “outside activities.” http://onforb.es/mz2DPf 

  • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

    Pogue is not a classical “journalist,” and will be the first to tell you. Look at all his outside book deals — they’d never be tolerated for a mainstream newsroom denizen.

    And DavidF is correct — Pogue has been a frequent contributor to Ragan in the past, keynoting several events. At those functions, he does not talk about Tech so much as he talks about communications. He’s not there hawking products, and there’s nothing there that compromises his objectivity in any way.


  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6KX2ORHOJE5MFPMAUEWOSKCSIA DavidF

    As a longtime PR guy and ex-journalist, I see nothing wrong with this.  The Ragan organization invited Pogue to speak and, either paid or unpaid, he made his presentation, Ragan captured it on video and has, thus, created its own content to sell to others.  I don’t see anyone complaining if The Times videotapes an interview, posts it on its site and then erects a paywall for access to it. 

    Frankly, these sessions are helpful to journalists because they’re designed to make PR people better at what they do.  Plus, I don’t see anything that guarantees a placement in Pogue’s column if you pay $159.  I’m a big believer in journalistic and PR ethics (yes, they do exist), but this one is a non-starter in my book.