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.

Influencers matter

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.

The disconnect

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”

Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Published 3 February, 2015 by Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Max Tatton-Brown is Founding Director of Augur, and writes about what's next in the world of technology, marketing and startups. He is a contributor to Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or Google Plus

17 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (6)

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Matt Anderson

Matt Anderson, Commercial Director at Montage Communications

Hi I agree on the whole its a love hate relationship between PRs and journos, one can't live without the other. But I can't see journalists giving a damm about this approach, but we must get them onside so I suggest the following immediate action from the PR industry:

1 - Stop relying (on the whole) on incorrect media databases. The media is simply too transient and relies heavily on freelancers behind the scenes for the info to be right.
2 - Use common sense. If it is a consumer story stop spamming business journalists. No matter how much you 'are passionate about a client's brand' people in Glasgow do not give a f*ck about what is going on in London...
3 - Actually take time to read a journalists publication, get to know their interests, passion and hates. Then write to their style and agenda.
4 - Pick up the phone and take time to meet a journalist if you have time. They might be able to give you some help refining your approach...

This needs to change quickly, because on the whole link builders are better than most PRs at this approach now...

almost 3 years ago

Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Maximilian Tatton-Brown, Founding Director, Augur at Augur

Hi Matt, thanks for your comment. Everything you say is true but it remains the preserve of us back-slapping 'good guy' PRs. My question is: if journalists are feeling the brunt of the every day flaws from this industry, how do we help them realise that a change in the behaviour of one of them will scale 5x vs a change in a PR's behaviour having a 1/5 impact on their experience?

How do we get the word out?

almost 3 years ago

Matt Anderson

Matt Anderson, Commercial Director at Montage Communications

Well I would say that there could be social media solution to this problem.

I know that journalists are now using social less, solutions could be developed on networks such as Response source and homes for media etc.

Sort of a Wiki for journalist enquiries, not to name and shame individual PRs but to get journo preferences (rants) out to the masses rather than one poor (over worked) account exec feeling the brunt of an editor's looming deadline.

Training clearly hasn't worked and not all PRs are good guys like us and invest in it...

almost 3 years ago

Alex Kupriienko

Alex Kupriienko, PR strategist at Portmone.com

There's a great problem with PR managers. They don't want to learn from their own mistakes. Over and over again some PR scpecialist (let's give him a name — Jacob) makes the same mistakes.
It's good, if he realizes, that his communicative skills are primitive. But often such specialist couldn't even write an email without grammatical fails.
For PR managers the only revolution is evolution.

almost 3 years ago

Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Maximilian Tatton-Brown, Founding Director, Augur at Augur

Hi Alex - thanks for your comment. Not sure I follow though.

It sounds like you don't think the under-performing PRs can ever save themselves -- do you agree then that progress must come from the stakeholders that surround the industry? Or do you think there's some other solution?

almost 3 years ago

Alex Kupriienko

Alex Kupriienko, PR strategist at Portmone.com

Hi)
Sure, I agree.
I just wanted to add to your material some things concerning the importance of PR's self-development. Or smth like this)

almost 3 years ago

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.