PR Pros Doing it WRONG!

This post first appeared at Techpedia; By Tamar Weinberg

I don’t know about you, but if someone tells me my process is tedious and expensive, I may be receptive to hear what they are saying in the hopes that they can help me improve my life, either personally or professionally.

Seven years ago, I didn’t believe inbox zero was ever possible. Today, I sell training modules on my inbox zero process.

Public relations, especially in the age of blogging, has been quite a nightmare, to the point that in 2009, I called most PR pros public relations spammers. Many have blatant disregard for what people write about, and will use a distant mention of a product or service to what they think the blogger truly covers as a decent means to send a completely off topic pitch.

Just last week, someone pitched me on “thirty ways to tie a tie.” I actually responded, saying “um, I cover marketing.” His response, “well, you did write about it once.” At first, I scratched my head. Then, I realized he was right. I did. In 2007. For Lifehacker, a publication I haven’t written for in nearly eight years. It was such a long time ago that I really thought the pitch was off topic. It was off topic for the current decade. I’ll give him credit in having done research, but not having done enough research to know that the post wasn’t appropriately targeted.

I’m sure anyone who has done PR has created a fun template with the basics: blog name, blogger’s first name, his/her email address or URL to a contact form, the URL of the blog, and notes regarding why they are receiving a pitch. Most PR pros or interns won’t even go as far as giving notes regarding the pitch. They just assume that once they find the blog and see the general topic or theme, they already vetted them.

How wrong you are.

In September, I defined the strategy on an outreach campaign for a really awesome tech product suitable for families. The product is, in my eyes, appropriate for every single family home, and I think anyone would want to cover it if they were given the pitch.

And the truth is, they would!

But what I forgot to consider when doing the initial strategy is the other criteria to guarantee coverage: some bloggers demand product (this was a pre-order campaign, so product was not available). Some bloggers demand compensation (this was pretty much bootstrapped, so money wasn’t readily available for guaranteed coverage). In this particular niche, the blogger doesn’t work for free and many will tell you “I am not a charity.”

At the end of the day, to guarantee coverage, you’d really have to know the blogger and cater your pitch for them!

So naturally, while I did get coverage from the folks I knew best, it wasn’t as big a guarantee as it could have been if I had the right tools. Plus, I only had a handful of hand curated targeted bloggers, whereas there’s a database of influencers out there in all social touchpoints (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest) covering tens to hundreds of thousands of them!

I admit, I did it wrong!

Last month, I started looking at some incredible tools to make the process of PR outreach all the more easier. I discovered an incredibly targeted social influencer outreach tool** that not only gave me data on how active the particular writer is, it also told me the types of products they buy and what price points they’d like to cover (because you shouldn’t pitch someone who covers apparel from Target when you’re selling $1500 dresses).

Finding the right influencers doesn’t take minutes. It doesn’t take hours either, so hiring someone for 5 hours for $10 an hour will yield crap results. True targeted searches take weeks. Months. Years. Growing your Rolodex is everything but an overnight process.

What if I told you there are tools that actually make this process easier? And what if I told you that it could take five minutes compared to five months? You’d be interested, right?

Well, I guess your name isn’t Lori! :)

Days ago, I reached out to someone named Lori and told her just this. (This post is dedicated to her.) And I told her about my faults in having maintained the Excel spreadsheet, making it clear that “if you’re using Excel, you’re doing it wrong.” I didn’t care if she was or wasn’t, but I merely insinuated that there were better ways.

This kind lawyer-gone-PR-pro went on the defensive, telling me of her law school degree and her six figure income, so she must be doing something right.

Lori, I don’t blame you or anyone else for doing what’s comfortable, but you will be stuck if you don’t admit there are better ways.

Clearly, there are people who are under pressure to deliver results and would rather spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a random freelancer to get a half-assed list instead of spending less money on a subscription that will give ten times the amount of results in seconds. However, they also should understand that giving up control could be better for them and the company’s bottom line.

A few years ago, I outsourced some PR work to an agency that gave me a roster of over 20 years of clients in all verticals where all outreach campaigns were an “amazing success.” After three months, the only placement the CEO (!) secured was some exact verbatim reprint of a press release her employee wrote on a site that–you guessed it–aggregates press releases. Not a single influencer took the bait and covered the press, and I have to say, it was good press. I was embarrassed that I entrusted a reputable agency with this kind of work when she clearly was in over her head. I felt like the client and I fired the agency for miserable results.

Not all PR agencies do what they say they can do. Everyone can be a PR agency with the right tools, but I’m not going that far just yet. :)

I am forever accepting that I could make my life easier by considering the tools around me. Just this year alone, I’ve encountered a dozen great tools that I said I’d introduce in a blog post (still in progress). Everyone should have this mindset of “I can improve and do better with my work and my career by being open-minded.”

Having seen influencer outreach done both successfully and miserably, I can tell you definitively that there are better ways. Chances are, the things I do today aren’t as streamlined as they could be in a year or two years when something better comes along.

It will help us to improve professionally by having an open mind and accepting that there may be tools out there that genuinely can help. You should be receptive to feedback no matter who is giving it, especially if the messaging comes from the heart and isn’t coming from people in it to make a quick buck. On that note, to further that mindset, this past week, I sold a different product I am not related to in any sense of the word (no affiliate commissions, no sales commissions, nothing) to three different companies because it was that good and I knew they needed it.

Via Techpedia

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