There has been quite a bit of back and forth about the right time to pitch a story. Some of the voices make the seemingly reasonable point that in a busy time for news, when a mega story is breaking (like it did this week), reporters are focused on a particular issue and it's not the best time to try to get their attention with other things, namely your clients' or employers' desire for ongoing media visibility and attention. Others suggest that trying to relate client stories to the current news and interject them is opportunistic and in bad taste (as an example that comes from within the PR world, interestingly enough, Ragan's PR Daily advised: PR Pros: Don't Even Try to Pitch a Story this Week).
In making these arguments it is easy to blithely go along with the story line that puts the press on a pedestal and kicks PR to the curb. But let's get real here. The above narrative casts media and PR as polar opposites – with media being the pure and noble heroes and PR being the shameless promoters.
I am not interested in picking a fight with the media – that would not be good for my career – but I do think it is important to point out that it is not such a black and white world that we live in. After all, the vast majority of media are profit-making organizations. They hire reporters to write great stories that have catchy headlines to build audience and revenue. In short, they do these things for some of the same reasons that we write press releases and pitches – to draw attention. News stopped being about just news a long time ago (witness all the coverage about what Katie Couric is doing next and the state of network news).
I do think that there is such a thing as good and bad timing, and good taste and bad. We as PR professionals owe it to our clients and employers (after all, we are an extension of their brands) to know when to hold our fire and recognize when a pitch crosses over from being relevant and topical to something that reeks of opportunism. But I don’t think we should bury our heads in the sand and apologize for doing our jobs