How NOT To Do PR: An Interview…

  • February 15, 2012
  • Starr Million Baker

There’s much introspection throughout the industry right now as PRSA holds voting on a “new definition” of PR. Forbes blogger Haydn Shaughnessy covered his take on the industry yesterday, and another Forbes blogger and long-time communications trends reporter Jennifer Leggio posted an interview with Peter Shankman this morning on the state of public relations today.

Taking the same questions Leggio posed to Shankman, here are my thoughts on the topic – interested to hear yours in the comments:

What do you think is the single biggest mistake that PR people are still making? How can they rectify it?

Not listening. I honestly can’t count how many times I have heard a reporter, an editor, a media analyst, another PR person tell the PR people on the phone, on the webinar, in the room, to do some pretty simple things when it comes to engaging with reporters – be personal, be professional, don’t use the shotgun approach, get them what they need in a timely manner. If people are still saying it, that means someone out there still isn’t listening. Perhaps it’s a case of one bad apple and not the whole basket, but we’re held accountable as an industry for that one bad apple and it’s truly a shame. How to rectify it? Listen. Take the time to do it right. How many emails do you delete that start off “Dear [space for name]?” Yep, those go in your deleted folder immediately too.

Do journalists have a responsibility to learn how to better leverage PR people or is it all on the PR person to cater to the journalist?

I don’t know that I would say journalists have a responsibility, nor that PR people need to cater – we all have a job to do so their responsibility lies in writing the best, most informative stories; ours lies in ensuring they have the information to do so. If PR people are doing their jobs right then journalists wouldn’t have to learn how to leverage them, it would just be a natural outcome of a mutually beneficial relationship.

Age-old debate: is there a difference between journalists and bloggers? If so, what? If not, why?

Yes, but the difference lies in what outlet the person is writing for, not that they are one label or the other. The outlet dictates much of the need, the coverage area, even the style. PR people should still use the same approach – do your research, be personal, understand what the person is looking for – regardless, but the outlet may dictate timing, or news interest, etc.

What are some other common challenges you see PR people facing? Any tips on how to improve helps, too.

It’s time consuming to do media relations right, but do it – don’t skip corners and start sending out mass emails to faceless reporters who you have no idea if they would actually be interested in what you’re sending. That kind of work will come back around to bite you in the ass. Also, we’re talking a ton about media relations here, but that’s not at all the only thing PR people do – it’s just the most high profile thing, usually. Be an expert on your clients’ business, and the industry in which they play – it will help you do your job better with both your clients and the media. Be as fast as you can without sacrificing quality. And in the vast majority of cases, put quality over quantity (even better: mass quantity of high quality :-)).

Any ‘final thought’ on the state of PR in 2012?

I’m excited about discussions I’ve seen around PR owning more and more content creation. Many of us got into this industry because of our love of – and knack for – writing. I look forward to seeing where that goes.

Other good stuff in here