PR Is Still Broken

There’s been a few mentions around some telecom blogs about the onslaught of PR spam that’s been unleashed on people registered as press for the upcoming VON trade show, which is largely concerned with VoIP. One person’s privately commented to me that their email has been rendered largely useless thanks to all the PR pitches, press releases and meeting requests with which they’re being bombarded. This happens around pretty much every trade show, don’t think it’s just something plaguing the VoIP business, but it’s a sign that the vast majority of PR practitioners have failed to correctly adapt to the changing nature of media.

Ted Shelton nails it with the term “dialing for dollars”.

A PR person called me to pitch a meeting with her client and didn’t know anything about me as a writer or blogger, who I might write for, or why I might be interested in her client. She was simply dialing for dollars. PLEASE, at least know something about me and what I write about before you call me! As I pointed out to her, without knowing the basic facts, she might be wasting my time and her clients time. Of course, since she gets paid by the hour by here client, her time isn’t wasted… which is the problem here!!

There is the problem. While these PR people are technically doing their job, they’re certainly not doing it well — and a client must be able to perceive that. This isn’t a complaint session as much as it is a call to action to smart PR folk to change how they do things, if they’ve not already done so.

Andy Abramson, who tries to play both sides of the fence as a VoIP blogger as well as a PR person has fired back, laying the blame at the feet of writers and reporters. Apparently, the problem is that people these days just don’t cultivate sources like they used to, and we’re supposed to respond to each and every PR spam with “a question back to help frame out the next approach”. Ignoring all the irrelevant spam we get — no matter irrelevant is apparently evil.

With all due respect, that’s just a load of crap.

Don’t say people no longer cultivate sources — that’s blatantly false. The problem here is that Andy appears to be assuming that anything and everything a PR person shoves at a reporter, writer or blogger is worthwhile, which isn’t the case. So every PR person doesn’t have value as a source to every writer. It’s a PR person’s responsibility — if they actually care about their job — to do some background research on the people they pitch (see Ted’s “dialing for dollars” comment above), and if they can’t be bothered, I’ve got no responsibility to give them feedback. There’s really no point, and no need to try to develop them into a “source” — they’ll just keep sending me all their stuff anyway, should anything interesting come along.

I guess I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of good PR people, who have become reliable sources and valuable points of information. But, without fail, all of them have taken the time to get an understanding of what I write about and what I’m interested in, even if it’s been as simple as spending a few minutes looking over the site. Sadly, they’re far outnumbered by the ones that have sent me pitches for things that don’t come within miles of areas I cover. And you know what happens to most of them? Their address, or even their company’s domain ends up on my spam blacklist.

I’m sure Andy would respond by saying that’s a foolish answer, and that I’m cutting myself off from the potential of catching that elusive big story. Fat chance — companies on the list have pitched me such products as bilingual radar detectors and an energy drink developed by the US Army, so the likelihood they’d come up with something relevant and/or really interesting is pretty remote.

The real issue, though, is that their PR approach is wholly dependent on me and every other writer they spam) sifting through all the junk to find a story in which we’re really interested. Is that effective — not just for writers, but for PR companies’ clients? Hardly.

We raised this issue about six months ago, and it looks like little has changed. Again, this is a call to action for PR companies, not just baseless complaining. Moving away from the spam-driven model won’t just make our lives a little more enjoyable, it will deliver better results for your client, and make you more successful.

[tags]PR, public relations, VON[/tags]

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