An unpersuasive PR follow-up: “any interest?”

I’m terrible at answering e-mail on a timely basis, so I don’t complain when PR types follow up on their pitches. But I do wish they could be a little more creative in how they try to regain my attention.

Instead, the typical follow-up consists of the body of the first e-mail topped by a two-word query: “Any interest?”

That’s it. There’s no attempt to expand on the prior pitch, no hint of new developments with the PR firm’s client, no suggestion that anything the world has changed to make the subject more interesting. Maybe the service picked up another 80,000 users, maybe the app just got a round of bug fixes, maybe the CEO beat the charges–but “any interest?” tells me none of those things.

(Even worse: When the sender chooses to prefix the follow-up e-mail’s subject with the unfortunate abbreviation “F/U”.)

Meanwhile, freelancing has taught me that “any interest?” is the weakest possible follow-up with an editor. If my first e-mail didn’t get catch that person’s eye, I have to provide something more–a data point or two that suggests this story is moving and the editor would be well-served to have me chase it.

I’ve been making this point over and over when I talk to PR professionals, and yet I keep getting any-interest-ed in e-mail. There must be some outside factors to explain the persistence of this habit, and I should really try to sell a more in-depth story about it somewhere. Assignment editors reading this: Any interest?

Advertisements

Please stop asking for my “best number”

Too many of my interactions with public-relations types and the people they represent conclude with a pointless question: “What’s your best number?”

That query is a waste of time because my phone number, 202-683-7948, should be obvious: It’s in the signature that appears at the end of almost every e-mail I send as well as on my business cards.

Besides, as a self-employed individual in the 21st century, I don’t use any other number for work.

My absence of a desk line should be obvious: Why bother when I already have a smartphone on my person at almost all times? But the number on my wireless plan isn’t my work number either.

You might see me call from a 703-area-code number if both WiFi connectivity and mobile broadband are awful, but there’s no upside to returning my call at those digits. If I have any cellular signal, calls to my work number will ring through to my cell–and even if my phone is offline, they’ll still reach the rest of my devices.

Yes, I’m one of those people using a Google Voice number, even after years of Google’s intermittent neglect of that service. I’ve had this GV number–again, 202-683-7948, which may be easier to remember as 202-OVERWIT–since 2007, when a friend got me an invite to the closed beta test of GrandCentral, the company Google bought before relaunching its service as Google Voice.

And not only do I have those digits mapped to my regular gadgets, they also reach me in WhatsApp and Signal. I would have done the same with WeChat but couldn’t–which turned out not to matter, since my cell number is invisible in that app.

I trust that’s cleared up how to reach me telephonically. Now can you all also remember that if I don’t pick up when you call, you’re supposed to either leave a voicemail or send a follow-up e-mail?

Weekly output: custom-fitted headphones, virtual reality, Facebook auto alt text, connecting with journalists, FBI vs. Apple

This week featured my first trans-Pacific business trip–I spoke on a panel at the IFA Global Press Conference in Shenzhen, China–and my first travel to Asia since 2007. It seems that I don’t cope with that level of jet lag as well as I did in my 30s.

4/18/2016: For your ears only: Uvero offers earbuds with truly personalized fit, Yahoo Tech

I had a lot of time to try out these custom-fitted earphones on a 16-hour leg from Chicago to Hong Kong. They did not make the flight seem any shorter, but my personal soundtrack did sound better.

4/19/2016: What’s next in Virtual Reality?, IFA Global Press Conference

I talked about trends in this technology with my former Yahoo editor Dan Tynan, HTC’s Raymond Pao and AMD’s Chu Hanjin. The photo below may suggest that i was about to do a mic drop; in reality, I was talking with my hands as usual.

4/20/2016: Facebook launches technology experience to help the blind, Al Jazeera

I did the interview for this piece about Facebook’s efforts in automatically generating descriptions of images two and a half weeks ago. I didn’t know I’d be sitting in front of a TV camera when I got dressed that morning, which is why I’m wearing a green checked shirt instead of TV-friendly solid-color attire. Fortunately, the producers were willing to work with that, and the results looked alright.

4/22/2016: On Deadline: How to Best Connect with Reporters?, Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit

The morning after I got back from Hong Kong (professionalism!), I talked about how PR types can be less obnoxious when advising the press about upcoming news. My fellow panelists: the Washington Business Journal’s Jim Bach, ABC7’s George Jackson, and Bloomberg’s Jordan Robertson, plus W2 Communications’ Tom Resau  as our moderator.

Al Jazeera FBI Apple interview screen grab4/22/2016: FBI hacking Apple’s iPhone encryption, Al Jazeera

I couldn’t get to AJ’s newsroom on New Hampshire Avenue for this, so they sent a camera crew to me instead. We did the interview in the lobby of the my conference venue, the Gannett/USA Today buildings in Tysons. Afterwards, somebody in Doha sent a screengrab to the producer who then texted that to me.