Someone’s not getting the message

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Is the PR industry’s reputation getting worse, or just suffering from a lack of understanding?

A post put together for today’s internal brown bag discussion…

We’re all working through that question, as more “bad pr” pitch / stunt / email / telephone call blogs become popular among reporters, bloggers and even the PR industry itself. “Outing” particularly grievous PR errors has become a sport, and dustups between annoyed pitchees and pitchers has overshadowed the value good pr brings to organizations. It’s a frustrating cycle and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

Examples of “bad pr” sites include this recent addition, the original “bad pitch” blog , and there are many more.

We need to revist this question more frequently now that there are so many new channels for communicating with each other. Just the other day I had a conversation with a PR Week editor working on a story about how social media tools are changing the way PR communicates with its audience of editors, reporters and bloggers.

The conversation revolved around whether or not social tools were appropriate for pitching the media. (for the sake of this post, “media” will be an all-encompassing term). I couldn’t think of an easy answer because I believe it’s a matter of preference for each party. Some media are perfectly fine receiving pitches through Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and other social sites. Others are very definitely not fine with that approach.

The key for anyone in PR is to do their homework, not be lazy and remember that social sites are first and foremost, social (although you can make an argument for LinkedIn as the most business-oriented). Even though these sites are always on I’d equate pitching someone through them to getting work calls long after hours. It’d be annoying to you, and its annoying to media (again, with the caveat that if you’ve been invited by a reporter to contact them that way, all the power).

I’m of the mind that social media tools used in business are primarily for “gathering intelligence,” rather than first contact. If you’re fortunate enough to be brought into someone’s social circle, don’t immediately and foolishly take advantage of that access. Use the tools for what they’re good for: learning more about the person sharing their lives through them. You’ll be a much better PR person if you do more listening than talking, and benefit from creating pitches with real value to the particular target.