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There’s nothing worse than shying away from your responsibilities. And don’t get me wrong, much of the PR industry’s weakness at the moment has come quite duly from the lack of initiative and competence of its many many members.
But PR is a market highly dependent on its ecosystem and interconnected stakeholders. I’ll never forget the moment as a young account manager, when I realised that the best work I’ll ever do will be defined by what clients sign off.
Because of this, I’d argue it’s rarely scrutinised how much classic criticisms of the PR industry are actually seeded by those it interacts with.
And how much those stakeholders realistically hold the real power change it. That’s why I recently asked this question on Quora (check it out if you want to chip in.)
What do I mean? Let’s take a look in more detail. In Part one: Influencers.
Nobody ever intentionally sends an irrelevant email. They may slip into a casual attitude about it but ultimately, if you’re investing time to contact someone with information, you want it to be the right person and you want it to be something they can use.
But you don’t have to spend much time in PR before start to notice the ongoing and seemingly endless complaints about PR spam. So what’s the missing link here?
And why does nobody talk about credible, actionable solutions beyond “better training” (good luck with that in a system institutionalised by the inevitable promotion chain AE>AM>AD etc).
I was discussing some of this recently with the purveyor of a popular media database and I think it’s fair to say that in 2015, most perception about this market is built around a misunderstanding i.e. If you’re doing PR right, actually getting the details to communicate with a few key contacts isn’t hard. I mean, who hasn’t searched for example “@itsaugur.com” to find the email address formula?
Instead, the influencer database problem that has never been solved is the collection of “how to pitch me”, curated directly by those contacts. And there’s a pretty clear reason — many many influencers are so powerful vs those pitching them that they basically don’t give a shit.
Take the article about the journalist who replied to every PR email. He completely ignores the fact that many craved the response and likely updated their mailing lists, instead concluding with glib gags.
The article’s entertaining but it quite clearly shows that attitude at play.
It’s depressing because one group who can make a huge dent in this problem don’t realise they must play an active role if things are to progress.
Don’t get me wrong, they are right when they say “just read my stuff and don’t send me things that clearly aren’t relevant.” Of course they are right. This isn’t about that.
The fact of the matter is, most of the people sending the wrong stuff aren’t listening, many really don’t care and above all, this response from influencers isn’t working.
This is past being about a matter of who’s right. It’s about making things better.
What happens next?
A swathe of new tools claim to help. But what’s not clear at the moment is how many of them are focusing on changing behaviour among this stakeholder group rather than just selling to the PRs. That’s the big challenge I think remains.
So let’s finish on a positive note about how easy this could be. Everyone made a fuss when it turned out PRs outnumber journalists in the US by nearly 5 to 1.
What that really means is: if one journalist takes action, it can enable 5x as much change as one PR.
Now we just need to start thinking properly about the technology, tools and mechanisms that could make it easy for them.
What do you think? Don't hesitate to respond on Quora if you think we can gather more attention to the cause.
Up next in part 2: “The outreach imposters: search, content, digital and more”