Robert De Niro’s famous line from “Taxi Driver,” “You talking to me?” is broadly applicable in public relations. After a hard day’s slog, wading through countless emails, I find myself asking the senders: Have you any idea about the topics I write about or the publications I represent? In other words, do you know who I am? That may seem vain. Perhaps it is. But it’s an important point.

I write mainly about information security, information storage, and engineering. Anyone wanting to send me an email could find that out with a quick Google search. All you need to do is type in my name with the topic you are interested in and see if you get any hits.

That is the very least I would ask. But anyone considering themselves a professional would go a little deeper. What kind of articles do I write? What publication do I write for, and what is their editorial mission? Do they fit what you want covered? The answer much of the time will be no.

If you find hits in your desired area, it would be wise to ask how long has it been since I wrote about that subject? I used to write about server computing four times a month. But I haven’t touched that topic in five years. Similarly, I used to write a lot about Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Business Intelligence (BI,) computing for small business, solar power, wind power and world trade. ERP and CRM articles ended more than a year ago, world trade nearly twenty years ago, and renewable energy a couple of years back. Yet requests on these topics continue to flood in.

Another example: I don’t do news stories in IT. I don’t get assignments to cover news. Yet every day, I receive dozens of requests for a ‘pre-brief’ on this, that and the other topic of IT news. I don’t take any of them. If I accepted, I would spend five hours a day listening to companies yapping on endlessly. That’s why I don’t ever take them.

Another pet peeve – pitches on consumer topics. I have never done consumer-oriented stories. I haven’t written about smartphones, laptops and assorted consumer gadgetry. But the pitches keep on coming.

And then there are the nonsense pitches about spa treatments, Amazon Alexa, stylish clothing with hidden pockets, free assistance from LA Public Libraries, tips from Oprah’s Naked Entrepreneur, luxury bridal gifting, and interactive Christmas maps – these are actual examples from a single day’s collection.

My conclusion is that most PR effort is wasted on trying to convince the wrong person about the wrong subject. Instead of taking the time to isolate the right audience for a pitch, they are shot-gunned everywhere and anywhere in the hope of something sticking.

Here is what you should be doing:

  1. Skip prepackaged lists of contacts. They are mostly bogus.
  2. Compile your own list of bona fide contacts.
  3. Tailor your new list to the specific needs of each publication. Research what each contact writes about, become familiar with the publications, and the type of stories they publish.
  4. Send out targeted pitches and enjoy greater success.