The Odd Couples
“They say I’m crazy, but I’m about to go dumb again.”
– Kanye West (with Jay-Z), “Otis”
Fifteen years in the newsroom taught me that journalists are called on to be knowledgeable on a variety of subjects and experts in practically none on a daily basis. Deadlines and relentless editors tend to dictate as such.
This presents a glorious opportunity for savvy public relations professionals.
To the rescue are online services that allow newspaper journalists – not to mention the hundreds of other writers, including bloggers, freelancers, book authors, producers, the occasional stoned slacker, etc. – to submit interview requests for experts (i.e. PR clients) or real-life subjects (i.e. PR clients) on their topic du jour. Popular connectors are ProfNet and Help a Reporter Out (HARO).
The majority of queries are legitimate and offer a virtual gold mine for industrious – and quick-thinking – PR folks to secure media coverage for the people who pay their salaries.
Some requests, however, are rather odd.
A valuable lesson can be learned from the following sampling of unusual requests: For PR professionals, nothing is impossible when dreaming of client coverage; for journalists and related ilk – y’all can be just plain cray. The below requests (names of publications withheld to protect the not-so-innocent) are rated on a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being “Kanye West Krazy.”
Note: These queries were culled from only the past month or so.
Subject: Drunk eyes
Outlet: National news website
Quick synopsis: Writer was wondering: Is there a physiological explanation for what we’re terming “drunk eyes?” Writer’s theory was that alcohol causes muscles, including the ones surrounding the eyes, to relax, and sought an expert to confirm this.
Kanye West Krazy Scale Rating: 4
Category: Lifestyle and Fitness
Subject: Taboo: oral sex
Outlet: Radio show
Quick synopsis: Oral sex is taboo, but why? Everyone does it, but it’s such a big secret! (Emphasis not added).
Kanye West Krazy Scale Rating: 5
Outlet: Women’s health website
Quick synopsis: The article will cover five things a person might not know about sneezing. For example, plucking your eyebrows can make you sneeze. Caveat: For each sneeze factoid or scenario, writer needs any applicable science to delve into the how and why.
Kanye West Krazy Scale Rating: 6
Subject: Waxing a toilet bowl with car wax
Outlet: National magazine geared toward women
Quick synopsis: Writer needed to chat quickly with a plumber to confirm if waxing your toilet bowl with car wax is safe.
Kanye West Krazy Scale Rating: 8
Category: Lifestyle and Fitness
Subject: Looking for people with fetishes/dungeons/kinks
Quick synopsis: Verbatim: “Do you have a not-so-secret fetish? Do you have a dungeon, swing or other elaborate sexual set-ups in your home? If your freak flag flies proudly, you and your frisky pad could be featured on a new series for a major network!”
Kanye West Krazy Scale Rating: 9 (Editor’s note: Be wary of “anonymous” outlets. But at least this query would fulfill both lifestyle and fitness categories).
So take heart, PR professionals, when you’re at rock bottom and in desperate need of a client hit, you never know when that tailor-made query might arrive in your mailbox, gift-wrapped and ready.
And for you journalists, take comfort in the fact you’ll always have a fertile audience.