Bang Bang Bang on The Door Baby. Why PR People Need to Knock a Little Louder.

November 30, 2010

If you deserve more attention from the media and bloggers, your PR people need to do the same thing it takes to gain access to the Love Shack. While email is a great way to stay in front of a reporter, it’s not the way your story is going to get placed. How often do your PR people pick-up the phone and call a reporter? When they say they’ve “pitched,” ask them what that means. If it’s only an email, my advice: woo stay away fools.

Something has gone awry and I’m not sure how it happened or exactly when the turning point was. But there was a time we actually used to talk to each other; not through SMS, not via Facebook, no Tweets, no email – just real, unadulterated conversations. We didn’t say things like “I pinged him” or “I shot her a text”. We talked, we conversed, we had dialogue. It was this very topic that occupied most of the conversation I had with a few PR “old-timers” (those of us who have been in the biz 15-years +) last week. As it turns out, this problem is not isolated to just the PR world, it’s rampant across many industries. Is it a generational thing? Maybe. Is it a mindset? Perhaps. Regardless, it’s not good and it’s creating a new generation of PR lightweights.

I Like Big Butts and I Cannot Lie (Baby Got Back) was shaking up the music world, Bill Clinton was President, and me and my peeps were using media directory books and the phone to pitch stories; the year was 1992. To survive in PR you HAD to get on the phone to pitch- there was no other option. Sure, we wrote press releases and mailed them with stamps (printed, folded, stuffed, walked to mail box) but it was the call that sealed the deal. While it may not have been the most efficient way to do things by today’s standards, it worked. Newbies coming into the PR world knew quickly whether it was the right line of work for them or not. There was no “hiding” behind email, and certainly no one would ever dream of bringing their Walkman to work and wearing headphones at their desk. After all, how could you be on the phone pitching when Sir Mix A Lot was playing through your headphones (earbuds weren’t around yet)? You couldn’t and you still can’t today.

I love technology and embrace all the goodness it offers; you’d not be reading this right now if it wasn’t for technology. However, I believe that with all the good that tech brings to the PR world it has also become quite an “enabler,” and I don’t mean that in a positive sense. People who 10-years ago never would have made it in PR are posing as PR professionals now. And it’s not just the 20-somethings. Look around most PR firms or internal corp-comm departments and you’ll see it: phone not in use, music on, headphones on, manic typing. In fact, if not for cool tats, piercings, or streaks of color in the hair, it would be hard to tell the difference between a PR person and a game developer by simply walking into a room. Technology has made it too easy for people to pretend they’re doing PR.

In no way is this meant as an assault on tech or the people who use it. If anything it’s a case of hate the player – not the game. Email is great – fast, efficient, and a good way to reach a lot of people at the same time. Twitter – fantastic. Facebook – hard to imagine life without it. But while all these tools make the PR job easier, it’s the phone – pitching on the phone, having a real conversation with a reporter –that demonstrates an individual’s “chops”. Not too long ago something happened – that proverbial switch was flipped – and someone must have sent a memo to the next generation of PR people saying it’s okay to not make calls. Well – it’s not okay – and it’s not PR. Those twelve buttons on that magical device in front of you are meant to be used. Touch them – they don’t bite.

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