Monday, August 09, 2004

Out to Lunch

It’s amazing what an oven roasted half-chicken or a pan-seared sea bass can do for your business. Just as effective are pastrami sandwiches, Mexican tortilla soup and a cup of Starbuck’s coffee.

Liver is never helpful.

We’re talking about the magic of lunch. When two people who don’t know each other sit down for a meal, conversation can lead to unexpected places, which is the beauty of inviting an editor to grab a quick bite with you (in his/her own backyard, for the sake of convenience).

PR people are guilty of a lot of things, and among the most glaring is the tendency to over-think their pitches. They start with a little kernel of an idea and then expound with statistics, jargon and conjecture until that interesting kernel (PR gold) becomes utterly obscured by vast cornfields of wasted words. The verbal equivalent of Indiana.

Since editors don’t have time nor the inclination to sift through these insipid pitches, they calmly hit the delete key and mentally expunge from their heads the name of the company whose PR firm wasted their time.

Even if the pitch is good (concise; abstains from using the words “revolutionary” and “core competencies”), there’s no gaurantee it will even be read. So vast is the number of emails landing in the inboxes of reporters that a pitch must grab eyeballs immediately or be lost forever on the recipient.

Which is why “Lunch” is a great word to put in an email subject line. First, everyone loves to (and has to) eat. Second, it’s a much more intimate, alluring and timely proposition than is “please call my CEO.”

Some of the best ink we’ve gotten for clients came from enterprising staffers who played the “lunch” card. The beauty of this approach is that one needn’t be particularly clever, for even the wittiest sentence construction is trumped by the allure of a piping hot chicken quesadilla with mango apple chutney and an ice cold Coke.

When using this technique, the key is to make clear the executive you represent expects nothing from the meeting. “This is just a chance to get together to chat about whatever’s on your mind,” is a nice way to put it.

Now, the editor is thinking two things:

1. I won’t be expected to write a story about this clown, and;
2. What the heck is mango apple chutney?

In the end, this simple approach can pay big dividends. When the conversation takes its natural course, it’s amazing where it can lead. And if the reporter likes his lunch mate, the probability of a story being written – whether the next day or two months down the road – goes up considerably.

Unless you order liver. Liver is never helpful in such matters.

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