PR is helpful in creating exposure for you, your business and/or your products and services. I have been on both sides of the PR process (as a client and as part of the media receiving pitches) and it seems that as media has evolved, many PR professionals have become more confused.
In an effort to get more placements, PR professionals seem to be using a “spray and pray strategy”, sending out generic information to as many outlets as possible and praying that someone will care. This doesn’t work anymore. Sending any outlet a generic pitch about you, your business or your product seems just like that and doesn’t do you any favors.
I know that when a journalist or blogger is writing an article, they are usually looking for pretty specific information or sources for a piece. There is nothing worse than making a query and getting a pitch in return that has nothing to do with what you are writing about. It makes you as the client look bad and it’s a waste of your money. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that your PR firm often doesn’t know enough about your business to even be able to answer a specific query on your behalf.
Even if it is a generic query, the PR person should be able to articulate why they think that you are a fit for that outlet. I typically write “thought leadership” pieces with my opinion, not sourced articles. I also do the same on television. Yet, I still get all sorts of PR pitches that I have no idea why the PR professional thinks that I would be interested in. Maybe there is a good reason, but instead of connecting those dots, the PR person just sends something generic. Or worse, they refer to some previous blog post on this blog that makes it clear that they have no idea what our content is, but just looked up some headline for reference.
Moreover, the old press release blast is just outdated. Unless you are a public company reporting major news, the chances are that a typical press release is useless for you. Most media venues don’t want to report on your business, they want to quote you as an expert related to other stories that they are writing. That means that announcing your new product or service to anyone who will listen using a generic press release blast will likely fall upon deaf ears. Most media want something that is specific to their audience or a query where you are the expert and your product or service gets mentioned on an ancillary basis. This means that to be effective with your PR strategy, you should be going deep, not always broad- which is the opposite of what many PR firms have been trained to do for decades.
Finally, as in any other business, journalists and bloggers tend to favor sources where they have relationships. If your PR person doesn’t have a relationship with a certain outlet, your pitch- no matter how good- may get lost in the shuffle. PR pros would be better served building up some solid relationships then relying on their tactics from yesteryear.
Now, there are certainly fine PR firms out there, but I can tell you that some of these offenses I have seen from both boutique and well-known practices alike. If you are going to hire a new PR firm, you may want to:
Focus on what relevant relationships they have and how solid those relationships truly are;
Check on how they plan to communicate with journalists. In fact, asked to be copied on pitches for the first few weeks to make sure that it’s how you want your story communicated; and
Follow up on any relationships you make- if the door is open for you, take control of the relationships for the future.
The PR game has changed; if you are going to play it, make sure you and your firm know the new rules.
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is currently an on-air contributor for the national cable television station CNBC, the pre-eminent name in business news, and the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country. Carol multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics.
Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011 &2012) and has her own action figure.