PR People: Do As I Say, and, As I Do

…bloggers, reporters, that goes for you too.


Tom Foremski and me at a recent PRSA event, holding “Now is Gone

You’ve heard it a million times. Read the work of the person you’re trying to reach before you pitch them.

Sometimes we do. Most of the time we don’t. And, we’ve all witnessed what happens when you don’t – thank you very much Mr. Chris Anderson.

Tom Foremski is not only a brilliant journalist, videographer, and blogger, he is also an ally for advancing and improving PR. His cry for a better press release was Todd Defren’s inspiration for the Social Media Release. Foremski has accurately pinpointed PR’s weaknesses, not to trash an industry, but to shake us into a state of realization. His calls for reform have motivated the masses. Now, he joins the ranks of new media pioneers in changing the game for how PR people reach out to influencers.

Several prominent writers including Robert Scoble, and now, Tom Foremski, are requesting PR to contact them through Facebook as their traditional inboxes are quickly escaping their means of control.

Foremski has over 37,000 unread emails.

In a recent post, Tom offered his rationale for his migration to Facebook, “I will only look at pitches that come from my FaceBook friends. I will give those priority over all other communications channels except for face-to-face, which trumps all other channels. The reason is that if you are my FaceBook friend you are more likely to know what I’ve been writing about and what I’ve been up to. And I’m more likely to know a little bit about who you are. If you are just pitching me because your boss said you should then I’d rather not respond.”

Last year, Scoble likened Facebook to the “new” press release, saying “And now we have a new way for PR people to let me know about their apps. Write it on the wall please. Facebook: the new press release.”

I responded, “What he is saying is loud and clear, and you should pay attention. Reading between the lines, “I get too many emails. I can not respond to most of them. Find a way to stand out. Be creative and reach me in a way that appeals to me.”

Merlin Mann, who publishes the popular productivity site 43folders, has made it clear on his stance for PR. Don’t contact him any other way except by suggesting links to him via del.icio.us. Tag = “for:43folders”

Even though these examples are representative of influencers in only one market segment, in this case technology, they are not alone in their desire to improve the process for PR overall.

What do they each share in common? They’re going out of their way to help you get them to pay attention to you.

Listen.

Read.

Research.

Yes, it doesn’t satisfy the numbers game and you may need to reset expectations with your boss or your client, but, guess what? If you don’t, you’ll either be publicly embarrassed on the Web, called-out by an important contact across your company, and/or barred from further contact – not just you, your entire company.

If only all media and bloggers took the time to let us know how they wish to be contacted…

Seriously. As an influencer, they are automatically placed in the sights for motivated PR professionals. Whether they like it or not, they’re going to get ridiculously lame and uninformed pitches. I get them every single day and it absolutely disturbs me that people don’t read what I write before they feel obliged to litter my inbox with useless, irrelevant information. Most are just downright awful.

But, I too haven’t helped the situation. I haven’t placed my preferences for contact or the information I’m looking for anywhere on PR 2.0 or bub.blicio.us. Tom and Robert, although they have written about how to contact them in individual articles, also need to update their contact sections. If you didn’t happen to read those particular stories, chances are you missed it as they’ve since been buried with new content. In Robert’s case, his email and cell phone number are readily visible on the home page.

In addition, any smart reporter or blogger will or should occasionally ask a PR person how they found them or what made them think of reaching out. In many cases they’ll say that they were listed in a PR directory that tracks influencers by categories and provides all necessary contact info. These tools, in the hands of lazy PR flacks, are a dangerous combination. Most of the time, they simply run a list associated with key words and then blast hundreds of unsuspecting writers within minutes.

Hey xx, I know your busy, but I think you’ll want to see this news. It’s the most innovative, leading, disruptive, paradigm shifting solution that has no competition whatsoever and will change people’s lives…

If you’re an influencer, take control of your inbox and reach out to these various services and have them update your profile with your preferences. Whether you like it or not, you’re in these databases. And most importantly, add a “contact” section on your blog or online bio that also offers suggestions for contact – with both story ideas and methods for presenting them.

Help us, help you.

And to all the PR people in the house…pay attention!

Most of the time, less is more. This is after all, about building relationships that can help you over the course of your career. Thinking about the short-term game of just accumulating hits will earn you nothing.

This is about people,
respect, value, and trust. These attributes are earned and reinforced through practice.

For further insight, please read my free ebook on blogger relations.

Connect with me on Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, Plaxo, or Facebook.

Share
  • Stephen Davies

    Call me naive but why use Facebook as a primary email account?

    You can’t file.
    You can’t forward.
    You can’t CC.
    The mobile version is lame.

    In fact, Facebook’s email system is the most basic email system around.

  • Ike

    Hey, why is Fred Armisen holding a copy of Now Is Gone?

  • toughsledding

    I’ve been doing or teaching PR for 30+ years now, and the rules for media relations haven’t changed a bit. The gatekeeper — in this case Tom Foremski — decides who gets in and who doesn’t. And since he holds the “keys” to the gate, he makes the rules of engagement, and he doesn’t have to negotiate them.

    What’s the BEST way to deliver pitches to the media? Simply do exactly as they ask. That’ll mean additional research by the PR folks along with some careful monitoring of websites and publications — maybe even a little schmoozing on Facebook. But as with any sales transaction, give the customer what he wants and you will get the order every time.

    Tom has done a big favor for the PR professionals who are paying attention. He’s told them exactly how to serve his needs. Those who aren’t paying attention end up in the box with 37,000 unanswered emails.

    Too bad. Do your job.

  • Stringer

    I found your post interesting, as a student facebook.com plays a completely different role in my life as it does a PR practitioner. I recently held a position for my universities Greek Life, and when I was contacted through Facebook regarding questions relating to my job I found it very unprofessional and almost did not respond. I would mention to the recipient that I wish to deal with matters relating to business through email, not facebook. But this seems to be an interesting new tale. I find both Man and Foremski’s methods of encouraging lazy PR interns to do their homework and pay attention to the way they are asked to pitch ideas interesting and intriguing.
    One thing that has always turned me away from working in an agency is sitting on the phone and pitching ideas to someone you hardly know. I believe that this will add some creativity to the mix and start a little healthy brainstorming!

  • Vince Bank

    Your takeaway point seems to be, Brian, contact media how they want to be contacted.

    What should be common sense is the topic of countless blog posts.

    PR pros – do your homework, or you suck. Next topic!

ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research firm focused on disruptive technology. A digital analyst, anthropologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging technology on business, marketing, and culture. Solis is also globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. His new book, What's the Future of Business (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold and flourish in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. Prior to End of Business, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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