One of the big challenges for CES as a journalist is the tsunami of public relations and marketing professional who barrage you with pitches. During the days leading up to the show, and especially the first couple days of the show, I'm usually getting about 30-40 emails an hour begging me to review a product or take a meeting to check out some new technology. Walking the show floor I have learned to dodge PR folks who stop me to chat, hit me with a business card, and scan my badge so they can email me later.
Unsolicited pitches on your personal phone are the worst
Last year I gave out my phone number to a few PR people who were running communications for products I was genuinely interested in. But I came to regret that, because for months after the show, I would get calls from completely random companies pitching me on their products. Once I gave my number to these PR folks, they clearly shared it with a lot of other people I never met. Unsolicited pitches are bad enough when it happens through my work email or office phone, but when it happens on my personal cell phone, it drives me crazy.
This year, I decided to try out Burner, an app I had profiled a few weeks earlier. I got a 30-day unlimited burner, which cost me 8 credits, or roughly $4.99, a little cheaper if I bought credits in bulk. Instead of doing everything in my power to avoid giving out my phone number, I eagerly shared my burner number with anyone who seemed even mildly interesting. The result was that I was able to react much quicker when pitches came in, and nabbed a few drone-related scoops that I might have missed if they had arrived amidst the deluge of emails I was wading through.
Sure enough, my number was quickly being passed around
Burner wasn't perfect. I found that when I was connected to Wi-Fi, there was a noticeable delay between a message hitting my notifications and when it actually showed up in the app. A couple of times when I tried to send a message, it would fail, and I would need to retry. When I turned off Wi-Fi and worked on LTE, however, I never had any of these issues. But when that first text arrived at my Burner number for a company I had never heard of, from a pushy PR person I had never given any of my phone numbers to, I knew it was all worth it.
I expect that if this year is anything like previous CES events, I'll get a steady trickle of pitches and requests for the month or so after CES, so I'm glad the number will last a few weeks before self-destructing. It might be a little awkward when I have to give my real number to the companies I met at the show that I want to have a lasting relationship with, but my guess is that they won't take it personally. After this phone number is burned on my account, it will go back into circulation and could end up as the burner for someone else using the app. My apologies in advances for all the unsolicited pitches.