Post 04:08 The unfair asynchronicity of the PR/media relationship

PR pitches are often a lot like telemarketing calls. They come from nowhere and make offers of dubious relevance.

That’s inevitably frustrating, just like telemarketing calls!

But it is also a PR’s job to make those calls (or send those emails) even though (just like telemarketers) their success rate is trivial. So it is hard to understand how to stop them because PRs have little incentive to change behaviour.

It is not my job to bat back unsolicited offers all day. There is little incentive for me to deal with this stuff. Perhaps a staff journo thinks it is more acceptable. But all I have to sell is my time so I prefer to use it well.

I do not think this is precious: it MUST, surely, be a PR’s job to deal with media requests inquiries.

I think this unfair asynchronicity can be fixed, through technology. As I have often remarked, I am stunned by the paucity of basic online PR tools like image libraries. And there are basically NO online PR tools like “pull” services so that I can tap into pitches on my own terms, on my own time, instead of being interrupted mid-feature. I hope that this kind of innovation comes along before too long.

I suspect that one objection to this kind of tool (which I readily admit is very sketchily described here) is that PRs value relationships with media and technology disintermediates and therefore reduces the proximity of the relationship, potentially degrading a PR’s influence on a journo. But for me, that argument has never washed. No matter how good my relationship with a PR, if their client deserves negative coverage, they get it.

I also feel it is time for innovation. In the decade or more I have interacted with PR (from both sides of the fence) technology has not really made a meaningful impact on the way PRs contact media. Email is a change, but not a radical change.

I do hope that the more creative PR thinkers out there are contemplating how to use technology to ease the unfair asynchronicity. But given that most PR companies are yet to master basic list management, I’m not holding my breath and expect the unfair asynchronicity to continue to be a source of frustration and tension.

3 thoughts on “Post 04:08 The unfair asynchronicity of the PR/media relationship

  1. Hi Simon,

    This mutliplies when Australian-based PRs pitch stories across the Tasman.

    Australian-based PRs ring NZ publications (that they clearly haven’t never actually read) about Australian companies selling Australian products to Australian customers and trying to convince me that, “yes this is relevant to New Zealand”.

    I’d say, as a rule of thumb, a good 90% of cold PR pitches from Australia to NZ are a complete waste of time.

    And when we need a response from an Australian PR, we are often placed at the bottom of the priority list.

    Yes, there’s a clear need for technically-driven ‘pull’ mechanisms.

  2. One of my favorite things to do is to ask PRs if they have read the mags they are pitching to.
    Most say they have, but when pressed are unaware of basic structures in the book.
    A question from a journo to a PR along the lines of “where in the magazine do you think this would run” is often astoundingly potent.

  3. Love it.

    I’ve also discovered many of them don’t know:

    a) the publications’ frequency.
    b) the format of the print edition.
    c) the basics how NZ publications map to audiences (they all know perfectly well how Australian publications map). So for example, there’s often an assumption that The NZ Herald occupies the same ecological niche as the Sydney Morning Herald (which is most certainly does not in general and would be a ridiculously wrong assumption for, say, tech stories).

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