A Few Words of Advice for PR Consultants

urinal.jpgIf you work in public relations, either for a firm or as a consultant, and particularly if you wish to engage with bloggers as part of the services you provide for your clients than you probably want to read this…

Here’s the thing; for those of you that are trying to engage bloggers about 95% of you are doing this in a way that is not only wrong, but has the potential to be damaging to your client, embarrassing to you and unwise from a career perspective. Bloggers are an unpredictable bunch – just ask anyone who’s dealt with Valleywag or Robert Scoble or even me for that matter. In fact, try to engage any blog that has built any kind of following and you are playing with fire. If you’re smart or experienced you know this, if you’re typical you’re about to wander into a minefield. That’s because there’s a good possibility that what you’re about to do is completely and egregiously incorrect in terms of your approach, your follow up and in fact any effort you are likely to make at all.

Case in point: tonight at 2:35AM no less I get an email from a “PR consultant” I won’t embarrass him or the company he represents for the purposes of this explanation but let me start of by saying that at a minimum his approach will simply be ignored. After all, sending me an email with a press release – not even bothering with the formality of a salutation, a greeting or any indication that the PR hack has any idea who I am or what I write about doesn’t exactly engender warm and fuzzy feelings about what he’s pitching.

After all, why did he send me a release? Of course it is because he’s hoping that I’ll write about it on my blog, give him coverage, make him look good to his client, generate eyeballs or clicks or at least a clipping that can be added to a portfolio or a website, right?

Do you think that this individual ever stopped to think about what was in this for me? I mean the benefit to the PR person and his client are obvious but what about the benefit to me? If I choose to cover his non-news event what do I get? I get to spend my time checking out the information, writing a post, finding an image, editing the post, posting the item and then possibly even promoting the post.

But if you’re sending me a plain vanilla press release – one that has already seen the light of day and hence other journalists and probably other bloggers just like me it isn’t even news any more. After all, since the PR guy never even bothered to say hello, how do I know if I’m the first blogger he sent this to or the five hundredth? (Since I’m a bit smaller than say TechCrunch I’ll asssume I’m not first)

So if it’s not news, and since there was no special note with information that might be especially relevant to me there is no value in posting this article from my perspective. In other words the time the PR person spent mailing this was wasted and from my perspective this crap is simply spam taking room in my inbox – something else I have to delete at some point in the day.

In tonight’s case at least the item was related to a topic I cover although not closely. Worse is when a PR hack sends me something that is so totally unrelated to my areas of interest as to have no conceivable interest for me or my readers. Surprisingly this happens more than you’d realize.

This is a double insult – not only does the PR person expect me to do them the favor of promoting their client and making them look good but by their very act of sending me a press release that has nothing to do with what I do they’re telling me in no uncertain terms that while they are anticipating that I’ll be going out of my way to do them a favor they can’t even be bothered to read my work or have a clue what I write about.

That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. It makes me feel like teaching the PR person a lesson by posting their press release and writing about “How Not to Approach a Blogger”. How hard is it to treat someone that for you is a resource with even the smallest bit of courtesy and appreciation? After all, we can make you look like a hero or just as easily make you look like a zero.

Let me ask you again, PR people, did you ever, for even one moment take the time to stop and consider why we should be receptive to your pitches? Frankly I’m amazed at the way some PR people act. I swear, the way I’ve been treated by a few of the folks from this profession you’d think that I actually had an obligation to cover whatever they sent my way. I kid you not. I have had PR people send me stupid, badly written, non-news releases that had nothing to do with my area of expertise and then, when I didn’t bother to cover their crap or acknowledge receipt of the message they have the audacity to write me the following day asking me what happened and why I didn’t cover their news. The nerve.

Let me clue you in on a few things. There are plenty of ways NOT to approach a blogger. Failing to consider for even a moment why they would want to hear from you is high on that list. But there are also ways in which to approach a blogger that can make us receptive – anxious even to hear from you.

PR people that understand what matters to a blogger get their stuff published. All the time. Andy Abramson is one of these people. It’s no surprise that he’s also an accomplished blogger. Maybe that’s why he knows what it is that matters to me and he brings me stuff that is as beneficial to me when I write about it as it is to his client when I publish it.

It’s not rocket science. Bloggers want traffic. They want information that no one else has seen yet so that they can write about it first and get the links that come with being the original source of a story. They want exclusive information that is relevant to their readers. They want a heads up in advance so that they don’t get asked to write something frantically at the last minute. They want to feel like they are respected and appreciated – after all as a PR person you are getting paid to pester me to publish something about your client but what I am getting?

Are you going to cut me in on your commission? Is the client going to give me a few shares of their stock if what I write ads a buck to the share price? Is that startup going to offer me a gig when they get their next round courtesy of my recent expose on how they’re taking their industry by storm?

Funny thing, I’ve personally had all of those things happen to companies I’ve blogged about and I’ve never had a PR person offer me a dime. Not that I’d take one mind you but you hve to understand the point of what I’m saying – if you’re pitching someone who is clearly blogging professionally than you have to at least pretend to care about the things that matter to the blogger like making a living. And since bloggers make their money the Google-fashioned way – through ads on their blogs; or if they’re big enough and lucky enough with some sponsors added in – generating page views is really important.

So before you send me a press release that doesn’t relate to my blog and doesn’t even bother to address me by name in the salutation, stop for a moment and consider how you’d feel if I expected you to promote me. For free. To anyone and everyone. Imagine that I write you in the middle of the night announcing that I’ve just authored a post on new Mars Global Surveyor images and I’ve got some good photos and I’m hoping you’ll go around and tell everyone to come visit my site. What’s more, when you don’t do this and blow me off I write you two days later bitching and complaining that you ignored me. It sounds ridiculous, huh? It’s probably something you’d blog about negatively if you had a blog isn’t it?

Well, that’s what we deal with from you guys all the time. Interesting how the shoe feels when you mentally slip it on the other foot huh?

SUMMARY

What’s the take-away? Simple. If you want bloggers to cover your companies, treat us with respect. Consider what it is that we need to get out of a story and deliver us news that in some way accommodates those needs. Let us break the news (Mashable probably won’t anyway unless it’s a big story) or at least give us an angle that no one else is covering that relates to our topic specifically. Get the CEO on the phone with us ahead of the embargo so that we have something unique to say. Give us time to write something good and give us something that is interesting to our readers. Help us get what we need and we’ll help you…

Treat us like a public urinal and you’ll end up smelling funny yourself, after all it’s only fair that we give as good as we get. Deal?

About Oliver

Oliver Starr is a well known blogger, speaker and serial entrepreneur. His current blogging is focused on mobile technology and applications, green (eco-protective) technologies, and entrepreneurs and their companies. He is currently engaged as the Community Evangelist for Pearltrees.com, a new social curation tool. Oliver was also a professional cyclist and six time member of the US National Cycling Team.
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2 Responses to A Few Words of Advice for PR Consultants

  1. Pingback: Follow Up to Advice for PR Consultants Post | StarrTrek

  2. LadyBug810 says:

    Dear Oliver,

    I loved your article about how to approach a blogger! I was on Monster trying to figure out how to keep current on my skills and looking for info on Web 2.0, mashing and AJAX (wow!) when I discovered your article.

    I must confess I’d like to vent here – I’m feeling old with all this new technology and being 3 years out of college; having gone back at a ripe old age. Heck, my daughter is 24, the age of most of my co-workers. Anyway, I digress.

    Prior to finding my dream job I worked as a reporter for my local daily rag and the press releases are a pain and not well conceived.

    But as to your complaint about not being addressed by your name – I think that’s an old school nicety that society has somehow lost along the way and a shame.

    Hope you’re having a better day (really, I do) and if I need to send you a press release – you’ll be the first to know, since I appreciate the value of a “scoop”.

    Sincerely,
    your favorite Rich girl

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