Commentary

Message To P.R. People: Stop 'Reaching Out' To Me, OK?

In a reply to a publicist who contacted me recently on some subject or another, I surprised even myself when I wrote to her that I could not take up her pitch because she used the phrase “reaching out” in her email.

If memory serves, I actually went so far as to tell her it is my policy to say no to pitches in which the phrase “reaching out” or any of its variants is applied. It was a ridiculous, ornery reply to a well-meaning request for coverage, for which I apologize.

However, the “reaching out” phrase rankled me, and I am trying to figure out why. One reason is its overuse. This phrase -- “reaching out,” “reach out,” “reached out” or whatever form it takes -- is certainly overused in the p.r. biz today (and in many other places too).

Every day, it seems, I am on the receiving end of pitches that go something like this: “Hi! I am reaching out to you today to tell you about [insert celebrity’s name] new show in which [he or she] plays a [insert description of troubled character]. Please let me know if we can chat about this soon! [etc.].”

Parenthetical note: And while we’re on the subject, the word “chat” is a mistake too. “Chatting” is something you do with your friends. Communications professionals should not invite professional journalists to “chat” with them. “Chatting” makes a subject seem frivolous or unimportant. And even if most of these pitches are frivolous or unimportant, publicists should at least pretend they are not, out of respect for a journalist. Is that asking too much? Probably.

The reason the overuse of a phrase such as “reaching out” in publicity pitches is such a turnoff is because it smacks of laziness, as if the writer couldn’t be bothered to find another way to say “I am contacting you.” Why not just lead the pitch letter with the thing you’re trying to pitch? Obviously, you are contacting me -- this email is from you, right? Using the words “reaching out” makes a pitch seem tentative or weak, as if the publicist is dipping a toe in frigid water and expecting it to be too cold to swim in.

In addition, the phrase is so omnipresent today, you get the feeling it’s some sort of namby-pamby Millennial-speak. It brings out the grizzled journalist in me when I read it and think to myself: “C’mon, kid, out with it already.”

Besides, “reaching out” is really a phrase better applied when seeking help, not publicity for a TV show. Charitable organizations “reach out” in this way. Generally speaking, the publicists I hear from every day do not represent charities. They are not “reaching out” to me to ask for my money or time. They are “reaching out” to enlist my support for a very commercial enterprise. It just comes across as unseemly, grasping and pleading. Zombies “reach out.” Unless they too are the undead, publicists should not be grasping at me like zombies in "The Walking Dead" with their arms through a cyclone fence.

“Reaching out”? Please give it a rest. 

I could go on, but I think the point is made. Look for future columns in this space on the overuse of other words and phrases in the media today. “Drilling down,” “doubling down” and “taking a deep dive,” beware -- your days of reckoning are near too.

Zombie photo from “The Walking Dead” courtesy of AMC Networks.

9 comments about "Message To P.R. People: Stop 'Reaching Out' To Me, OK?".
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  1. Joshua Chasin from comScore, November 11, 2016 at 12:43 p.m.

    I believe that "reaching out" is a euphemism for "I know I should call, but I'm just gonna email."

  2. David Reich from Reich Communications, Inc., November 11, 2016 at 12:55 p.m.

    Good column, Adam.  I am embarrassed when I hear from journalists about this kind of laziness by fellow PR people.  I'm sure it's not just "reaching out," but also lots of off-base pitches that make it obvious they've never actually read yuouir column.  Their lack of professionalism makes it harder for those of us who try to do our jobs right.  

    Hope to chat soon. 

  3. Steve Beverly from Union Broadcasting System, November 11, 2016 at 1:31 p.m.

    Adam, another spot on commentary.  "Reaching out" is as much of a fingernail-raking-a-chalkboard phrase as when reporters today refer to one who has disappeared as one who "went missing."  I don't know who determined that one "goes" or "went" missing, because that suggests an active decision to do so.

    And if I hear another anchor say, "It's that time of year again....," during the holiday season, the set will be muted!

  4. Linda Moskal from WNPV Radio, November 11, 2016 at 2:04 p.m.

    I think we all have our pet irritants.  Mine is information sent to the radio station as a "Press Release."  Since we don't have a press, it immediately goes to the circular file.   

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 12, 2016 at 9:46 a.m.

    Adding phrase that needs to be wiped out is "givng back". Either you do something or you don't. 

  6. Nina Lentini from MediaPost Communications, November 14, 2016 at 7:36 a.m.

    Right up my alley, Adam. Thanks. I hope they hear you.


    Another chalkboard screecher is "I am writing to you about the below." "The below"?


    No, wait, the real pisser is "quick question." Who is judging the quickness of the question? Generally, you fired off an email with a question that I will have to take some time to answer. So while the question may have been quick for you, no amount of calling it that will ease my pain in answering you.

    Finally, the use of "building a bridge" to mean creating a relationship. Oy.

  7. Adam Buckman from MediaPost.com, November 14, 2016 at 12:03 p.m.

    To all who read this blog post and especially to those who emailed me and/or left a comment here: I am very gratified by the attention this post has received since its publication last Friday. Good, bad or indifferent, I am grateful for your readership. All best, A. Buckman

  8. Garrett Donaldson from JKR Advertising & Marketing, November 14, 2016 at 4:49 p.m.

    I have no objection to using the phrase "reach out", as long as you are a member of the Four Tops.

  9. Jeff Domansky from Peak Communications Inc, November 18, 2016 at 4:17 p.m.

    Adam, thanks for reaching out with your fun post about "reaching out." My favorite worn out connector is "Let's grab a coffee." What you mean grab? That's something only the President-elect can do. Chat again soon.

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