In a recent Huffington Post post, The PR Problems with Public Relation’s Firms, author Carol Roth lobs a few brickbats at the PR profession, calling out those among our brethren who continue to carpetbomb the media landscape and count all hits as victories. You know what I’m talking about PRWeb? She chides those who pitch to outdated media lists (GASP! You mean you can’t trust Cision?), and those who solicit opinion writers.
A successful colleague, a recipient of a prestigious Silver Anvil from the PRSA, once explained the PR profession to me like this: “I’m selling magic,” he said. “Pixie dust. People pay me because they believe I possess some special knowledge, or relationships, that they don’t have. I have to do everything I can to preserve that mystique, because if they ever started to think they could do it as well or better themselves, they wouldn’t need me anymore.”
Isn’t that what it all boils down to? Public relations is an art, not a science. Our success depends on our ability to consistently deliver a product or service that delights our clients and exceeds their expectations. If it were simply a matter of posting a release on PRWeb, or querying a database and accepting what it says as gospel, anyone could do it.
That’s not to single out Cision and PRWeb—these are powerful tools and they have their place. Rather, Roth suggests, and I concur, that real PR is based on relationships. And while some may read this article and get defensive, I know many more who would agree. It’s old school. But that doesn’t mean it’s old-fashioned.
Sure it takes time and effort to get to develop your own personal media list. It takes time, and considerable effort to cultivate real relationships—two-way streets, where you know the reporters and what they are interested in and they hear from you regularly and not just when you’ve got something to pitch.
I’m not one to throw stones. I’ve sinned. We’ve all fallen victim to deadline pressures and unrealistic client pressures and expectations. But that kind of PR is not sustainable. I think Roth was right to call us out. The question now becomes: What are we going to do about it?
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