Saturday, November 03, 2007

Beating PR People and Getting PR Value

Beating on PR people seems to have become a sport. Chris Anderson's rant is only the latest in a long list of bloggers complaining about the emails they get from the clueless PR people who send out scads of useless pitches .

Most of the complaining I hear comes from bloggers who, until they put out a blog, had never seen this side of the industry. Though, quite a bit comes from reporters who routinely echo the same refrain: why don't PR people read what I write before sending me a pitch?

I also get a lot of lousy pitches, some from people who show up on Chris' short list, but so what? Every once in a while I hear about something interesting. Though, I must admit, NO ONE has tried to engage me in any meaningful conversation.

Why are PR people such easy targets? I believe this is because PR does, in many ways, operate in the shadows. Whenever I try to tell someone what I do they give me a funny look, not because they don't understand it, but because I don't appear to do anything at all. I don't write the articles that appear, I don't produce the products I pitch, but I just tell reporters the stories and get THEM to write something. The key question they never get around to asking is "don't the reporters FIND the stories?" It's a tough for a general news consumer to understand that reporters find stories, but some stories are sent to them. It means admitting that not everything they read was collected as expected.

On the other side, you never read an article that says "I got a call from a PR person telling me about this story." The source is usually left unknown. Frankly, if I do my job well, you never should know that I exist, you should just hear about my client and all the great things they do.

So, if people know we exist but don't fully understand what we do, and we continue to operate in the shadows, then we're easy targets. I mean, who really loses other than the PR people? The members of the press look good, as if they would much rather be out doing REAL reporting than dealing with our annoying email, the general audience feels as if they've gained some insight, and PR people are still going to pitch Chris Anderson because, well, he's got a pretty good audience.

The irony of this Anderson flap is that he's done some amazing PR for a client of my agency (though, not one of my own). He loves Cloudmark Desktop so much, that not only does he talk about it on his blog, but he started this whole thing by trying to emulate the collaborative nature of the product. Going beyond that, he's talking about the product in almost every interview he's done, even

Can you imagine trying to pitch an email Spam tool to Of course not, no PR person would ever do it, unless they had a great story to go along with it. Yet, there it is, messaging in tact, from the Editor-in-Chief of WIRED.

The lesson? It's not just about pitching bloggers, it's about impressing them in such a way that they want to write.

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