It’s an all-too-familiar refrain: Public relations person sends generic pitch for client to editor, editor starts to read pitch, editor snorts that topic or company has nothing to do with his publication’s coverage area, editor hits delete or shoots brusque reply to PR contact, client loses, account executive and agency look the fool. As someone who’s been on the editorial receiving end of these interactions, I’m happy to report that in my experience, the preceding scenario is more the exception than the rule. Yet it still happens too often. There’s no reason why there should even be exceptions.

As an editor, I cherished those public relations professionals who took the time to dig deep and learn about the industry vertical and how their clients’ technology or products fit into it. Ask questions, do some research, talk to the editors who cover the field. That’s right: Ask the editors. But before you take the valuable time of those overworked, underpaid content mavens, be sure you engage with the right editors.

A magazine may cover the so-called electronics industry, for example, but that “industry” incorporates everything from products like televisions, computers and mobile devices to the intricacies of semiconductor design and fabrication. The blogger who reviews cellphones is rarely the same person as the editor who reports on advancements in extreme-ultraviolet lithography. As a former semiconductor editor, few things were more annoying than getting a query from a clueless flack pitching me about covering a computer company.

As PR experts, we should always do our best to know which editors work on the trade and general publications that our clients and their customers turn to in their professional lives. We should read up on those editors’ recent articles and blogs to see where our clients’ interests intersect with the editors; tailor the pitches accordingly; and offer ourselves as domain resources to those needing interview subjects or background for an upcoming project.

When I was an editor, I appreciated those PR folks who made my job easier and who could actually carry on a conversation about the subject matter without relying too much on marketing pabulum. The relationship was collegial, not adversarial. Now that I’m on the other side of the fence, it seems only right to promote that same approach in my dealings with the editorial community.