Charging BullOkay, that’s a pretty bold title, and it may put some folk off, but sometimes you have no other way of saying something without diluting it.

I was watching a conversation unfold on Twitter the other evening about public relations, and why a lot of the PR industry is in disarray.

While the “bloggers and journalists don’t like us” line was shared a few times, one of the points that came up a lot was that the industry is still seen by many as being one full of shillers.

Heck, the only industry that seems to get less favorable attention is that of social media consultants…

But to be fair, much of PR only has itself to blame (and I say this as someone with a PR background). I’ve come across way too many agency and corporate PR owners who think the sun shines out their arse. If something goes wrong, it’s often a case of blaming the intern or junior account executive. Then there are the senior executives that take the great ideas of the juniors, or interns, and pass it off as their own so they can climb the corporate ladder.

And don’t even get me started on the PR folk that still think spam is a cold meat for sandwiches, and it’s okay to throw regular regurgitated dross into your Inbox and try and pass it off as a pitch or contact. Seriously guys, I’m tempted to gather a month’s worth of junk mail and stuff it through your letterbox – it’s a similar effect.

Of course, not everyone is like this. You have great folks like Dave Fleet, Rachel Kay, Dave Mullen, Heather Whaling, Matt Batt , Arik Hanson and many more doing brilliant stuff for the PR industry. And then you have a generation-in-waiting with Sasha Muradali, Ryan Stephens, Lauren Fernandez, Stuart Foster and others leading the way for Gen Y.

But still the great work that these guys do is being diluted by the craptastic approach of others. So here’s an idea.

The next time you see a crappy PR pitch or email, challenge the sender. Ask why they sent it, and do they really think that passes as good PR. Same goes for a tweet, or blog post – question people. Don’t be aggressive about it; simply ask why they feel that approach works. Have alternative suggestions as well (nothing worse than criticizing and not having some kind of alternative).

Ask if they have any idea why you weren’t taken with the pitch. If they say, “Wrong subject matter” or similar, at least you know they’ve done their job a little bit when it comes to researching the target (you). If they have no idea why you’re disappointed, explain why and see if they can understand why your way might be better.

If it’s a junior or intern that’s sending out the various pieces of communication, find out who’s above them and challenge them – let’s not attach blame to innocent targets.

It might not change the PR industry immediately – heck, it might not change it at all. After all, like the post title mentions, shit is still shit no matter how you dress it up. And some folk just don’t take to new dress codes.

But if we can collectively change just one mindset and then work from there… Well, that’s got to be worth our time, no?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Christopher Chan

Get my latest posts as soon as they're published

Join 12,346 smart subscribers and receive my latest posts as soon as they're published - simply enter your email below (I respect your privacy and will never spam you).

Alternatively, click here to subscribe to the RSS feed instead.

156 comments
Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Me, edgy? Perish the thought... ;-)

I'm not surprised you did this, Rach - one of the reasons I recommend you whenever someone asks about PR pros and agencies doing great stuff. :)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Me, edgy? Perish the thought... ;-)I'm not surprised you did this, Rach - one of the reasons I recommend you whenever someone asks about PR pros and agencies doing great stuff. :)

rachelakay
rachelakay

I'm sort of late to game on this Danny, but I hadn't seen this post before. I won't regurgitate the good points made here, but I wanted to chime in and say I am doing my part. I actually received a highly targeted, spam press release several weeks ago. Perhaps I was feeling edgy (like you were when you wrote this post :)) but I responded back asking why on earth I would be added to a list like that because I'm not a journalist (aside from my blogging but this was unrelated) and explaining that their actions are doing nothing to elevate our profession. They responded with an apology, and promised to remove me as well as any other PR people from the list. Not perfect, but hopefully it was an eye opener. It doesn't feel good when one of your peers calls you out.

rachelakay
rachelakay

I'm sort of late to game on this Danny, but I hadn't seen this post before. I won't regurgitate the good points made here, but I wanted to chime in and say I am doing my part. I actually received a highly targeted, spam press release several weeks ago. Perhaps I was feeling edgy (like you were when you wrote this post :)) but I responded back asking why on earth I would be added to a list like that because I'm not a journalist (aside from my blogging but this was unrelated) and explaining that their actions are doing nothing to elevate our profession. They responded with an apology, and promised to remove me as well as any other PR people from the list. Not perfect, but hopefully it was an eye opener. It doesn't feel good when one of your peers calls you out.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Me, edgy? Perish the thought... ;-)I'm not surprised you did this, Rach - one of the reasons I recommend you whenever someone asks about PR pros and agencies doing great stuff. :)

rachelakay
rachelakay

I'm sort of late to game on this Danny, but I hadn't seen this post before. I won't regurgitate the good points made here, but I wanted to chime in and say I am doing my part. I actually received a highly targeted, spam press release several weeks ago. Perhaps I was feeling edgy (like you were when you wrote this post :)) but I responded back asking why on earth I would be added to a list like that because I'm not a journalist (aside from my blogging but this was unrelated) and explaining that their actions are doing nothing to elevate our profession. They responded with an apology, and promised to remove me as well as any other PR people from the list. Not perfect, but hopefully it was an eye opener. It doesn't feel good when one of your peers calls you out.

David Mullen
David Mullen

Thanks for the nod, Danny. Appreciate that!Nothing wrong with that title. A fact is a fact. You can polish a sneaker all you want, but it's still a sneaker.

David Mullen
David Mullen

Thanks for the nod, Danny. Appreciate that!

Nothing wrong with that title. A fact is a fact. You can polish a sneaker all you want, but it's still a sneaker.

David Mullen
David Mullen

Thanks for the nod, Danny. Appreciate that!Nothing wrong with that title. A fact is a fact. You can polish a sneaker all you want, but it's still a sneaker.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

It's definitely getting to the stage that you just don't want to "help" anymore, Ed. Like you say (and others here, including @CTK1), should we still be trying to help those that don't want it? I'd like to remain optimistic that people can change, but it's becoming increasingly unlikely. Hey ho...And always happy to point out those doing great stuff, and you guys at Mullen are regulars in any of these mentions - nice job, sir!

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

It's definitely getting to the stage that you just don't want to "help" anymore, Ed. Like you say (and others here, including @CTK1), should we still be trying to help those that don't want it? I'd like to remain optimistic that people can change, but it's becoming increasingly unlikely. Hey ho...

And always happy to point out those doing great stuff, and you guys at Mullen are regulars in any of these mentions - nice job, sir!

edwardboches
edwardboches

Ooops, have to mention also that it's great to see you give props to two of my guys, David Mullen and Stuart Foster. Great to hear stuff like that.

edwardboches
edwardboches

Ooops, have to mention also that it's great to see you give props to two of my guys, David Mullen and Stuart Foster. Great to hear stuff like that.

edwardboches
edwardboches

Ooops, have to mention also that it's great to see you give props to two of my guys, David Mullen and Stuart Foster. Great to hear stuff like that.

edwardboches
edwardboches

Astonishing to me that this is still a conversation. If there really are PR people who still don't get it they should either take down the shingle or just roll up and die. WTF? It can't be any more obvious that conversation, engagement, authenticity, access, honesty define the process. It ain't that hard. Then again, I just heard of a pitch where the social agencies all presented metrics and none of the traditional agencies offered any measurement at all. There seems to be a post a week about this subject. All true but if those who need aren't changing, why even bother talking to them. Save your breath and effort for more important stuff. Always a pleasure to stop by here.

edwardboches
edwardboches

Astonishing to me that this is still a conversation. If there really are PR people who still don't get it they should either take down the shingle or just roll up and die. WTF? It can't be any more obvious that conversation, engagement, authenticity, access, honesty define the process. It ain't that hard. Then again, I just heard of a pitch where the social agencies all presented metrics and none of the traditional agencies offered any measurement at all. There seems to be a post a week about this subject. All true but if those who need aren't changing, why even bother talking to them. Save your breath and effort for more important stuff. Always a pleasure to stop by here.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

It's definitely getting to the stage that you just don't want to "help" anymore, Ed. Like you say (and others here, including @CTK1), should we still be trying to help those that don't want it? I'd like to remain optimistic that people can change, but it's becoming increasingly unlikely. Hey ho...And always happy to point out those doing great stuff, and you guys at Mullen are regulars in any of these mentions - nice job, sir!

edwardboches
edwardboches

Astonishing to me that this is still a conversation. If there really are PR people who still don't get it they should either take down the shingle or just roll up and die. WTF? It can't be any more obvious that conversation, engagement, authenticity, access, honesty define the process. It ain't that hard. Then again, I just heard of a pitch where the social agencies all presented metrics and none of the traditional agencies offered any measurement at all. There seems to be a post a week about this subject. All true but if those who need aren't changing, why even bother talking to them. Save your breath and effort for more important stuff. Always a pleasure to stop by here.

Tina
Tina

Happy Birthday!

Tina
Tina

Happy Birthday!

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Hey there Tessa,I wonder if it's something that could be like an email signature or footer option from the sender? Something along the lines of "I really want to make sure this is the right kind of approach for you; please feel free to let me know how this measures up" or similar? Could be that just these few words might open up a world of difference in collaboration?Great to have you in the industry - hope it's as enjoyable as you want it to be!

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Hey there Tessa,

I wonder if it's something that could be like an email signature or footer option from the sender? Something along the lines of "I really want to make sure this is the right kind of approach for you; please feel free to let me know how this measures up" or similar? Could be that just these few words might open up a world of difference in collaboration?

Great to have you in the industry - hope it's as enjoyable as you want it to be!

tessacarroll
tessacarroll

As someone who is still relatively new to the PR industry, I work very hard to craft pitches that I think are going to catch the attention of the target. When they don't work, well, that's a little disheartening sometimes. I would love to have someone challenge me the way you suggest here, Danny. Sometimes researching your target thoroughly and agonizing over a certain pitch just isn't enough. Sometimes you need information or insight that only the person on the receiving end can offer. I know many PR people who would feel the same way. Tessa CarrollVBP OutSourcingwww.blogs.vbpoutsourcing.com

tessacarroll
tessacarroll

As someone who is still relatively new to the PR industry, I work very hard to craft pitches that I think are going to catch the attention of the target. When they don't work, well, that's a little disheartening sometimes. I would love to have someone challenge me the way you suggest here, Danny. Sometimes researching your target thoroughly and agonizing over a certain pitch just isn't enough. Sometimes you need information or insight that only the person on the receiving end can offer. I know many PR people who would feel the same way. Tessa CarrollVBP OutSourcingwww.blogs.vbpoutsourcing.com

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Hey there Tessa,I wonder if it's something that could be like an email signature or footer option from the sender? Something along the lines of "I really want to make sure this is the right kind of approach for you; please feel free to let me know how this measures up" or similar? Could be that just these few words might open up a world of difference in collaboration?Great to have you in the industry - hope it's as enjoyable as you want it to be!

tessacarroll
tessacarroll

As someone who is still relatively new to the PR industry, I work very hard to craft pitches that I think are going to catch the attention of the target. When they don't work, well, that's a little disheartening sometimes. I would love to have someone challenge me the way you suggest here, Danny. Sometimes researching your target thoroughly and agonizing over a certain pitch just isn't enough. Sometimes you need information or insight that only the person on the receiving end can offer. I know many PR people who would feel the same way.

Tessa Carroll
VBP OutSourcing
www.blogs.vbpoutsourcing.com

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Too true Frank, and that can be equated to offline as well. Sure, like you say, throw enough of something and it might stick - but it depends on the surface you're throwing it at. And increasingly, these surfaces are getting ever more resistant and non-sticky. :)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Too true Frank, and that can be equated to offline as well. Sure, like you say, throw enough of something and it might stick - but it depends on the surface you're throwing it at. And increasingly, these surfaces are getting ever more resistant and non-sticky. :)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Nope, I think if you're going to complain about someone's approach, you need to make sure that all your info is up-to-date. Have a section on your About page that has "PR Contact" or something. It works both ways for sure, although I'd still say that more onus is on the PR agency, as they want more from you than vice versa. :)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Nope, I think if you're going to complain about someone's approach, you need to make sure that all your info is up-to-date. Have a section on your About page that has "PR Contact" or something. It works both ways for sure, although I'd still say that more onus is on the PR agency, as they want more from you than vice versa. :)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

If the pitch isn't for me (as in topic or subject matter), I'd never take it. I'd still suggest to whomever sent it that for future reference (even if it's not me but another blogger or media outlet), they check their details first. It'll save them rejection and (hopefully) help them build a better relationship with the kind of folks that can help them tell their stories.I guess it's just from seeing so many bad pitches and knowing that it would take just one or two minor changes in approach, and loving the industry I work in.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

If the pitch isn't for me (as in topic or subject matter), I'd never take it. I'd still suggest to whomever sent it that for future reference (even if it's not me but another blogger or media outlet), they check their details first. It'll save them rejection and (hopefully) help them build a better relationship with the kind of folks that can help them tell their stories.

I guess it's just from seeing so many bad pitches and knowing that it would take just one or two minor changes in approach, and loving the industry I work in.

laurenfernandez
laurenfernandez

I totally agree with you. I research contacts, even if it's for a national campaign and there are a ton of them. But just to play devil's advocate a bit....

Should it only be the responsibility of the PR person? Is it the most efficient way to pay for a service, but then have to research every single contact? Are we spending too much time doing that, when it could be a collaborative effort?

laurenfernandez
laurenfernandez

I totally agree with you. I research contacts, even if it's for a national campaign and there are a ton of them. But just to play devil's advocate a bit....Should it only be the responsibility of the PR person? Is it the most efficient way to pay for a service, but then have to research every single contact? Are we spending too much time doing that, when it could be a collaborative effort?

amancool5
amancool5

@RocklandUSA @socialmediablog @socialmediamind RT @surekhapillai "shit is still shit no matter how you dress It" http://bit.ly/rbXoK
via uberVU

FrankReed
FrankReed

Amazing isn't it how people look confused as to how they should use any social media outlet. The idea of throwing everything up against the wall to see what will stick is like cold calling in sales. Sure you'll get some activity but only from the application of the law of large numbers. What isn't seen is the damage done where good people are turned off to your 'pitch' and you may never know the damage you did. All in all, people look for the easy way out, plain and simple. Those who do that in PR, marketing, sales or any business discipline will reap what they sow.Great work as always, Mr. Brown. Keep the s&^* coming!

FrankReed
FrankReed

Amazing isn't it how people look confused as to how they should use any social media outlet. The idea of throwing everything up against the wall to see what will stick is like cold calling in sales. Sure you'll get some activity but only from the application of the law of large numbers. What isn't seen is the damage done where good people are turned off to your 'pitch' and you may never know the damage you did. All in all, people look for the easy way out, plain and simple. Those who do that in PR, marketing, sales or any business discipline will reap what they sow.Great work as always, Mr. Brown. Keep the s&^* coming!

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Too true Frank, and that can be equated to offline as well. Sure, like you say, throw enough of something and it might stick - but it depends on the surface you're throwing it at. And increasingly, these surfaces are getting ever more resistant and non-sticky. :)

FrankReed
FrankReed

Amazing isn't it how people look confused as to how they should use any social media outlet. The idea of throwing everything up against the wall to see what will stick is like cold calling in sales. Sure you'll get some activity but only from the application of the law of large numbers. What isn't seen is the damage done where good people are turned off to your 'pitch' and you may never know the damage you did.

All in all, people look for the easy way out, plain and simple. Those who do that in PR, marketing, sales or any business discipline will reap what they sow.

Great work as always, Mr. Brown. Keep the s&^* coming!

CTK1
CTK1

If they contact you and want something from you, but go about it in a way that would never interest you and then you explain why, will you then take what they originally offered? Or do you mean you'll help them understand why the pitch was bad and hope they improve and perhaps come back "to you" later? How would we know if someone is a Jr. or an intern? Is this something people reveal in contact to you? Either way, I have all the time in the world for friends and close associates, but can't imagine extending that same care to strangers who want things from me. Yet again, my wish is for the people who actually deserve the job, even if it's an intern. But I understand mostly what you're driving at. And I admire people who have that kind of time to articulate to someone they don't know, what it is they could be doing better.

CTK1
CTK1

If they contact you and want something from you, but go about it in a way that would never interest you and then you explain why, will you then take what they originally offered? Or do you mean you'll help them understand why the pitch was bad and hope they improve and perhaps come back "to you" later? How would we know if someone is a Jr. or an intern? Is this something people reveal in contact to you? Either way, I have all the time in the world for friends and close associates, but can't imagine extending that same care to strangers who want things from me.

Yet again, my wish is for the people who actually deserve the job, even if it's an intern. But I understand mostly what you're driving at. And I admire people who have that kind of time to articulate to someone they don't know, what it is they could be doing better.

johnhaydon
johnhaydon

We can - and should! At least for the next customer, if not for ourselves.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

I see your point. Yet don't we all start somewhere and build our experience (or at least, should, in order to grow? If it's a mid to high-level position, then yes there needs to be accountability from the off. But if it's an intern or junior learning the ropes, they need to learn the skills needed and that comes from above. Unless that's what you mean?

With regards telling strangers how to do their jobs, if they're contacting me because they want something from me on their (and their client's) behalf, they should expect me to challenge if they mess up. It's not so much "telling" as asking and trying to explain why that approach didn't work. And I'm sure they'd appreciate it more if it helps them keep their job as opposed to losing it ;-)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

I see your point. Yet don't we all start somewhere and build our experience (or at least, should, in order to grow? If it's a mid to high-level position, then yes there needs to be accountability from the off. But if it's an intern or junior learning the ropes, they need to learn the skills needed and that comes from above. Unless that's what you mean?With regards telling strangers how to do their jobs, if they're contacting me because they want something from me on their (and their client's) behalf, they should expect me to challenge if they mess up. It's not so much "telling" as asking and trying to explain why that approach didn't work. And I'm sure they'd appreciate it more if it helps them keep their job as opposed to losing it ;-)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Mostly just bad PR practices - that can be the pitching, the storytelling (or lack of), the education, the training... I've heard a lot of PR pro's complain that they don't have enough hours in the day, so that can result in less than perfect approaches. But guess what? Everyone's in the same boat - if you make someone else's life as counter-productive through bad practices, no-one wins. Work on improving and working through it together, listening to feedback and honing your skills - well, then, we might just be getting somewhere ;-)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Mostly just bad PR practices - that can be the pitching, the storytelling (or lack of), the education, the training... I've heard a lot of PR pro's complain that they don't have enough hours in the day, so that can result in less than perfect approaches. But guess what? Everyone's in the same boat - if you make someone else's life as counter-productive through bad practices, no-one wins. Work on improving and working through it together, listening to feedback and honing your skills - well, then, we might just be getting somewhere ;-)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

I guess one of the main issues is that there's not really a roadmap to what constitutes great social media use in PR. There are plenty of ideas and examples, but they're not generic cross-industry ones (as well they shouldn't be). Of course, that comes down to education and help and working together - but as Narciso above mentioned, that involves leaving egos at the door. And there are a lot of egos in the PR industry...

Trackbacks