Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Blacklisting PR firms

To those outside of the PR/journalism/social media realm, you're going to be bored with this post. Don't both reading more. For those of you who are, please continue to read. Believe me, it won't be a waste of your time. I have some pretty poignant comments to make to both PR hacks like myself and scribes.

Sorry, maybe this isn't a ground breaking post, but rather my simple-minded thoughts on something being discussed in the blog/pr/social media world these days.

A massive part of the existence of PR hacks is to get media coverage for clients (and sometimes avoid it). Selling ground breaking widgets? Hired a new controversial CEO? Think you've created the best bread slicer in history? Whatever the "story" is, clients want to get media lovin'. They want heaps of it. They want it now, not later. They want it above the fold, read by millions, in front of customers/potential business makes them look like king tut. The point? They want coverage and it's our - PR hacks - job to get it.

Sounds like a pretty fun gig, right? Should be pretty easy to do, right? Just pop over an email, come up with a catchy subject line, slap together a few witty graphs, stitch in a press release and you're good to go, right?

Maybe this is true for the dot-com,, days. Not anymore. The media landscape has changed dramatically. There are no clear lines as to who is a journalist and who is a hack. Some hacks ARE journalists. If you're reading this, then I guess you could call me a SMS - social media scribe (you heard the term here first).

The changes in the media landscape have fueled the scribe/PR battle. The social media world is now is now blazing with talk about blacklists and using gmail filters to give hacks the heisman.

Now, by no means and I sticking up for my fellow hacks or slapping the hands of scribes. Here's my point to this waste of cyber space: can't we just all get along?


Seriously though, here's the deal as I see it.

SMS's are being bombarded with bullcrap pitches from everyone and anyone. I can understand their frustration and the move to blacklist or filter out hacks. At the same time, I know where the hacks are coming from. They have real pressures coming in the form of clients who want coverage and no excuses. Pressures that in some cases, mean employment with benefits or flipping burgers at McDonalds.

There needs to be balance in the force. Here's how we can make it happen - "we" as in SMS's and hacks. It'll be like the good and bad sides of the force coming together to make a better galaxy. So, without further delay, here are my three key steps that should help SMS's and hacks play together nicely in the sandbox:

To SMS's:
1. Respond - I know you can't respond to each hack email, but for those that are on target in terms of the focus of the pitch, yet you're not interested, reply back to the hack and politely say, "Thanks for the pitch. I'm not interested at this time. Keep the ideas coming. Thanks!"

2. Educate - To those that bark up the wrong tree, give them a second chance, but tell them that they f-ed up. If it happens twice or three times, put them in the filter bin.

3. Share - give us hacks a bit of insight as to what you need from us. It's all a guessing game, but if you take a bit more guessing out of the game, then we can be more in tune as to help. Maybe post a "here's how to pitch me" item - a road map or sorts, so we will be on target (or at least be in position to).

I know, this is asking a lot because once you bend over for one person, you gotta do it a million times a day. In the long run though, don't you think you'll get better pitches and smarter sources?

To hacks:

1. Think - Think about what you're pitching and who you are pitching it to. Think sniper, not shotgun. Be smart about what you're pitching and ensure that it is right in the wheel house of the person you're pitching it to. These folks don't have the time to read BS pitches. Think before you hit the send button. Think as a journalist. Are you giving them everything they need to make an intelligent decision about your story? Is it even a story? Just think. For the love of Pete, think before you hit the send button.

2. Communicate - To be part of the conversation, you need to engage. You need to be part of the conversation. SMS's will take you more seriously if you're blogging, are on twitter, understand their world. Don't always pitch. Ask about their family. What they drive. Where they grew up. Went to school. Anything, nothing, everything...just communicate. Be a human and communicate. Stop being a PR robot. Build a relationship with your contacts by communicating and coming to them with something of substance and be reliable. Clear communication is the building block to a fruitful SMS/hack relationship.

3. Share - Hacks need to do a better job at sharing their wealth of resources. It shouldn't all be about your clients media coverage. Provide sources to scribes even if it's not a client source. Share you expertise even if it means you'll get no kudo's for it. Help a reporter out, is what I'm trying to say. Be helpful and it will come back to you. Trust me. I've been doing this long enough to learn that it does pay to play.

So there you have it, words of wisdom from the big guy. It's not brain surgery. It's really just common sense when you think about it.


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