I think it’s time to apologize. For my people. And by ‘my people,’ I mean my industry.
Every industry has it’s share of rotten apples, but it appears as though PR must do everything in excess. We are filled to the brim with annoying hacks. There are peddlers and there are spammers. Let’s not forget those every-moment-of-the-day callers who don’t understand that business hours exist and that there is such a thing as family dinners.
As a journalist and blogger we respect immensely recently put it: “Why do PR people act like such horrible, annoying leeches?”
Come to find out, she had recently been stalked with 5 a.m. phone calls, received hundreds of pointless, downright rude, ‘give me this’ messages, and was essentially accosted by a PR person looking for data on how many ‘impressions’ a story generated.
Sounds like fun, right? Nah, I don’t think so either.
So from one PR person to a world chock full of PR-aholics: Lighten up, people. Grab a cold one and really consider: Are you a people person? Are you—dare I say it—nice? If not, please see yourself to the exit immediately. Go to the IRS and put in an application at the collections department. You’re giving us a bad rap. PR wasn’t made for nags and badgers. Really, in the beginning, it was made for people who care. Tenacious people, sure. But people who didn’t leave their manners back in the third grade.
So if you’re deciding whether or not to take the dive into our glorious land of pitch and proffer, here are five things you must truly ask yourself before signing up.
1. Are you really ready to care about the person on the other end of your pitch?
Or do you just need a story? Robert Scoble (who articulated it in a classic way in ‘09) singles out one of his favorite PR people because he actually built a relationship with him. Or check out TechCrunch’s brilliant dismantling of publicist Timothy Johnson who clearly didn’t care much about anything. That didn’t work out too well now, did it?
2. Do you recite facts or tell stories?
And I mean real stories. Launching a startup is awesome, but it’s not a story; it’s an event. Anyone can distribute a press release or get a journalist to cover a funding announcement. The best PR people create stories that account for 365 media awareness. They identify and pull out the details people care about.
3. Lasting relationship or one night stand?
There are a lot of “PR Pros” out there that use a journalist, writer, influencer, etc. for a quick “fix” or story. That’s all fine and well, but that’s a quick-fix strategy, not a long game approach. A really good publicist will want more than just one hurried story from the writer. Real PR is about building relationships that will be mutually beneficial for the long term.
4. Are you inconsiderate?
If the answer is yes, you’re probably not very good at life, much less PR.
Sure, PR people have to be tenacious, but being persistent doesn’t go hand-in-hand with being inconsiderate. Just because we may be working all hours of the night or on a holiday doesn’t mean that the journalist or influencer we’re trying to reach is. If you’re in PR, you have to remember there are these things called time zones. And there is such a thing as too many exclamation points. Fifteen email reminders? Just to clarify, that’s definitely overkill. Is 5 a.m. too early? Always. Consider what you would appreciate and then do them one better. You won’t believe how much they’ll appreciate it.
5. Do you have a fairly sturdy backbone?
Because you’re going to need one. PR isn’t for the easily discouraged or offended. For every win, there is a trail of rejection. In order to work in PR, do your job well, and not crumble under pressure (and as a result, come off as a jerk), you have to be ready to ride the ups and downs of media outreach. Rejection can wear us down but it’s important to not let it turn us into a horrible person either.
If you want to be a publicist, and a successful one at that, I hope you take heart. We need more good eggs and less bad apples, so please don’t take your cues from the ‘leeches.’ Instead, step back and do it the right way. Be intentional. Be smart. Be original. Be nice. Work hard and play well with others. And above all, stick with the simple but sage advice of Ed Zitron—it will never fail you: “Reporters will like you if you get them a story they want to write.”
Photo Credit – The Telegraph UK