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Tracey E.Schelmetic

[April 4, 2003]

Dot Commentary

By Tracey E. Schelmetic
Senior Managing Editor, CUSTOMER [email protected] Solutions™

What’s The Focus, Editor?

I know this column is normally about life in the Internet lane, but I realized recently that it's also sometimes a pure soapbox forum, and I have some suds I definitely need to rinse. I'm hoping that it'll be a tough-love kind of talk for people who may need it. I'm going to talk about trade publishing, specifically high-tech trade publishing, and the public relations industry.

It's not going to be pretty.

In the spirit of David Letterman, I'm going to put the information I'm about to impart into a Top 10 list of grievances and observations gathered over the years from my own experiences and those of my colleagues. Toughen your hide, pour yourself a drink (even if it's just tap water) and have a seat. Here goes…

10. Do your research. When you call me to tell me something, please take 10 minutes to check out our Web site first and find out a) What the correct name of the magazine is; b) What the correct name of the editor you are calling is; c) What our very visibly posted editorial guidelines are; d) What your client's product is about. When we have to explain to you what the company you represent does, it does little to impress us to pick up the phone next time you call.

9. Please don't call me to ask me if I got the press release you sent. Never once have I thought, "Wow…I'd really like to run this press release in the magazine, however, I didn't get a follow-up call from anyone to make sure I got it, so I guess I'll have to throw it away." I promise.

8. Understand there are some days when 120 press releases cross our desks. Make it easy for us…do not attach the release as a word document, don't make us download it from a Web site, don't attach it as a PDF file and don't use cute fonts or embedded graphics that take an eternity to load…just put the text of the release in an e-mail. If we have to use a lot of energy to open your release, there's a chance yours will be among some of those 120 releases we don't get a chance to read.

7. Please ix-nay on the hyperbole. "Acme Corporation, the leading producer of the most award-winningest products that have ever been created by the fair hands of mankind, recently announced a super-duper alliance with Joe Schmoe Enterprises, which has been making platinum-plated products since before the dawn of time, holds 9,674 outstandingly innovative patents, and is blessed by the Pope and Bill Gates personally, have teamed up in a superhuman alliance to create a product that makes the angels sing" really says, "Acme and Joe Schmoe partner and release a new product." Which version do you think saves editors time and makes your release more likely to get picked up? If I cut the drama out of your press release and am left with five usable words, I'll probably give up on it.

6. Toss the word "leading" on the scrap heap. "Leading" doesn't mean anything to an editor. We find it funny that we never get releases that say, "Acme Corporation, which is positively scraping the bottom of the barrel in software production, but is trying to catch up, has released…"

5. Don't ask me what the focus of contributed articles is. There are two types of people in this world…there are people who want to write bylined articles for a magazine, and there are people who don't. The people who do want to write them, and have an idea what to write about, don't have to ask what the focus is. As a former colleague used to say, "If you have to ask what the focus is, don't bother."

4. Train your employees in the technologies. Please don't put your untrained 20-year old intern on the phone to our technology editors, and then wonder why you get little response. When a fresh-out-of-sophomore-year intern who is majoring in child psychology and 14th-century Italian romantic poetry tries to explain a telephony product to a tech editor, and can't even pronounce the word "telephony" properly, that editor is not going to take your firm seriously now or in the future.

3. PLEASE coordinate your efforts and keep a database of your dealings with each publication. When a company writes an article for me and I work with one PR representative, then another rep from the same firm calls me a week later trying to pitch an article for the very next issue, unaware of the activities of his/her colleague, I'm going to get annoyed. When three different people from the same PR firm give me conflicting information, unaware of my dealings with other members of their company, I'm going to get really annoyed. The underlying message is, if you're going to pitch CRM, practice it.

2. Don't send us "What I did last summer"-style proposals. We can spot stock/generic proposals from a mile off…we read many, many proposals a day and know which ones are written by knowledgeable people who have a grasp of the topic and an interest in expounding on it, and which ones are designed to fool the teacher into thinking you've done your homework.

1. The June issue of any magazine is never still open for editorial contributions on May 21st. We don't sit around on the last day of the month with a stapler, binding magazines and licking address labels, so please don't be surprised to find out when you call on January 27th at 5:06 pm that the February issue is closed. This does not only happen for big magazines…even Dwarf Guinea Pig Vegetarian Pet Owner magazine has production deadlines.

I do not mean to imply a lack of respect for the public relations industry. I work daily with a wide variety of very talented people who know their clients' businesses inside and out, and they are a pleasure to work with. A good public relations person is worth his or her weight in gold, and we owe a lot to you (you know who you are) for making our jobs easier. Editors are far from perfect human beings, and we come with our own set of challenges.

So here's to the spirit of comradeship, future cooperation and smooth coordination with one another…editors and public relations professionals alike.

Just please stop asking me what the focus is.

Tracey Schelmetic is a technology editor and a leading authority on purchasing dairy products via the Internet, and may be reached at [email protected].

Like what you've read? Go to past Dot Commentary columns.

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