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I don’t think PR professionals give our industry enough credit. And it starts with the fundamentals. As in those of us who are practicing them aren’t claiming them. And that’s our bad, because we should be.
Why should we claim things “everyone” should be doing? Because when we don’t continue to talk about doing the three Rs well – research, relevancy and relationships – bad pitches like this one gobble up all the PR headlines, tweets and Google results.
When you’re doing media/blogger outreach, do you research bloggers and journalists before you contact them? Sounds ridiculous to even type that question. But then again, I’ve read the Bad Pitch blog.
Sure, research should be a fundamental element of every PR outreach campaign we do. But there are plenty of PR pros out there who don’t take the time to research and just blast and mail merge one-way messages across the blogosphere, often times to the 34 percent of bloggers who don’t even talk about brands on their blogs.
Research is also about doing the right thing for your clients because you understand their business and the audiences they are trying to reach. Let’s say you get the chance to work with Snap Bracelet World – don’t pretend you don’t remember snap bracelets. One option is to just start brainstorming ideas left and right, throwing up Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Drafting “snappy” media pitches. Or you could actually sit down with your new snap bracelet friends and talk about what they’re trying to achieve.
There really is a big difference between just jumping into the tactic weeds versus asking a client about their goals and objectives and then creating strategies and tactics to achieve those goals and objectives. But when you take the extra time to do the research, claim it. What’s obvious to you may not be so obvious to someone else.
One of my colleagues always uses the following example when explaining relevance: If you were a cat food company and you were pitching a story, would you rather earn placement in your city’s newspaper or a cat blog?
Ha ha, those of you who said both. But if you had to pick one, wouldn’t you pick the cat food blog? I would because I know that audience is predisposed to my message. The city newspaper audience might be much bigger and might also not give a rip about cats at all. Just going after A-listers all the time overlooks relevance. But at least it is done with a potential publicity goal in mind. Too often, we are seeing completely irrelevant pitches that turn a blind eye to what makes the most sense for the client as well as to PR fundamentals.
That’s how a pitch targeted to a mommy blogger ends up in the inbox of C.C. Chapman, who manages Digital Dads, btw. That’s how a pitch focused on the latest and greatest toy for children gets sent to a woman with no kids. And that’s how a pitch developed for an ultra-conservative brand ends up being covered by a blogger who doesn’t write a post without incorporating a four-letter word.
If you’ve spent any time building relationships, you’ve learned one thing – building relationships takes time. Not trying to get tricky with words there, but it isn’t something you can do by just flipping a switch. So don’t treat it that way.
We live in a “who do you know” world and communications is no different. Reporters, bloggers, peers, friends, all have a platform online and have always had one offline. In many instances, who you know will align with what story you’re trying to tell. For example, maybe you’re working with a nonprofit trying to raise money and awareness for a cause and you have a group of people in your network who a) support that specific cause or b) are just plain charitable.
At that point, your relationships become part of your PR toolbox and what you bring to the table. Position them that way to your boss or a client even if you think to yourself “I couldn’t do this job without building relationships. I do it every day.” Think about it like you’re trying to explain the value of relationships to Aunt Edna. And take credit for who you’ve taken time to get to know.
You might feel silly when you sit in front of a client during a results report and remind them you actually spent time aligning strategies with their objectives. Or that you called on relevant peers, media and influencers with whom you’ve built relationships to help share a campaign.
But you know what’s really silly? Making assumptions. And when we assume that everyone else knows the PR industry as well as we do, we cheat ourselves out of recognition and credibility we deserve.
So don’t hesitate to claim the three Rs when you’re looking for some of the fourth R. I believe Aretha called it R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Justin joined Fleishman-Hillard Kansas City, where he specializes in digital strategy and education, in 2009. Before that, he was at Sprint for two years where he managed the company’s employee social network, Sprint Space, and led efforts to improve customer outreach via social media, specifically Twitter. He is in his fifth year on the Kansas City IABC board and is serving as president for the 2010-11 board year. Justin is a huge Bon Jovi fan and once won third place in a karaoke contest at Chicago’s John Barleycorn’s with a rousing rendition of Livin’ on a Prayer. He’s also a diehard Kansas City Royals fan, so go easy when talking baseball.
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