There’s been a whole string of articles lately on how the media are sick of dealing with PR people. As someone who’s worked in the PR trenches for years doing hands-on media relations this is nothing new.
In the past, I always felt like this articles calling for no PR involvement and more transparency weren’t directed at me because I’ve never been the typical crappy PR person who smiles and dials.
Long ago, I started refusing to engage in things like “call downs” where you call a list of reporters to pitch them a story or the practice of “spray and pray” where you blast out an email pitch or press release to a list of people. (Yes, that’s me not playing by the rules. Surprising, I know.)
For some reason, lately I’ve really taking these articles such as this one from Medium and this one on First Round Review to heart. And then you add Mark Cuban to the mix… do you know how much I heart Mark Cuban? Back in 2012, he wrote a piece on how startups shouldn’t hire PR firms which makes some insanely valid points. (And that’s saying something as someone who grew up in a PR firm working for startups.)
While I think there’s a time and a place for smart PR people to help you and your business get on the map, the world has changed. You don’t need a publicist or PR rep for you to get started.
The Media Are More Accessible Than You Realize
If we go on a quick trip in the wayback machine, back then you needed PR to help you get connected using their relationships and their fancypants media databases. Today, you can easily find most contact info in the matter of a few clicks while reading everything the reporter has ever written.
You have the information you need at your fingertips. You just need to learn how to use it and as a business owner if you can master pitching, you’ll stand out.
The sad, sad reality is that most of the “pitches” reporters receive suck. So if you can formulate a solid pitch, you’ll be able to rise to the top of the pack.
Add a solid pitch to the fact that you as the owner, the actual person they are going to be speaking with, is contacting them and you are winning. Your chances of a yes are increasing greatly.
The media want to hear from you. They want the direct line to the source and not publicist controlling the interaction.
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That’s not to say you should run out and pitch the Wall Street Journal today, as you need some credibility as a source, but start where you are today. Get your website in order so that when you do pitch the editor doesn’t burst out laughing. (For more on this, grab The Press Kit Principle Guide.)
Relationships, Press Releases and Other PR BS
Maybe the idea of pitching the media makes you feel a little queasy. I get it. I seriously do. I’ve personally been doing it forever, (or at least it feels that way) and there’s still that little moment of apprehension. It’s healthy, and that wee bit of fear makes you ensure things are pitch perfect.
Maybe part of your fear around pitching yourself is fueled by some of the big myths that PR people spread in the impulse for self-preservation.
Let’s quickly debunk my three favorites.
1. You need a publicist for relationships. Sure a publicist or PR pro can get you connected, but you don’t necessarily need them. Yes, relationships are useful, but if your story blows and you are a terrible spokesperson, all the relationships in the world don’t matter. Not to mention, even the best PR person only has so many relationships, so don’t hire anyone based on their relationships. Hire them because they have a track record and can deliver the goods. Not because they can name drop like a D-list celeb.
2. You need to do press releases. No and no. More explanation here. 9/10 times you don’t need a press release. Anyone selling you a press release package is stuck in the 90s or straight up shady business. Oh and while we’re debunking this one, a press release posted on a big name site is NOT media coverage for your “as seen on”. Tacky, tacky, tacky. Be better than that.
3. DIYing your PR makes you look like small potatoes. This is one I used to tell my clients all the time (and I did fully believe this) but it’s patently untrue here in 2014. DIYing your media relations makes you smart. Do you want to to be the one building that relationship with your #1 trade reporter or your publicist? Exactly. Plus, you are probably the most qualified person to tell your story, even if you need a bit of help to refine it.
There you have it. You totally can and should be working with the media (and bloggers) to raise your profile.
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