When Will PR Grow Up And Be All It Can Be?

I see a lot of PR pitches, just like I see a lot of advertising. I don’t mind the over-exposure, because it is my job and my passion. However, I do mind especially crass and often repeated attempts to reach me, and the general lowering of standards industry-wide.

According to Ragan’s PR Daily, the ratio of PR people to “pitchable” journalists is estimated at 4 to 1.


This certainly explains my inbox. Here’s one that just came in — read it with me, will you?

Since you blog about the marketing and advertising industry, this new technology development — announced today — should be of interest because of the effect it will have on the marketing discipline..

“There are a lot of garbage, irrelevant pitches out there,” says Gail Sideman, owner and publicist, Publiside Personal Publicity. “Some PR people are so pressured by their clients or bosses to pitch stories with no real news value that they devalue themselves and leave reporters with a bad taste should they ever pitch another story.”

Yet, the practice has its place and its defenders. Christopher S. Penn of Shift argues the central reason why public relations and marketing communications as a field “will never go away” is because every business needs three fundamental communications drivers: Awareness, Engagement and Trust. To deliver on these key promises, Sarah Skerik of PR Newswire suggests that PR pros, “Keep surfacing those crucial nuggets that describe why the story matters, and lead your audience through the message, laying a trail with these compelling ideas.”

Good advise, but I have even better advise for PR pros. Develop relationships with the reporters and bloggers you’re pitching by taking the time to read their work, know their interests and specialties and generally have a clue about what’s going on in their world. I can count the PR pros on one hand who bother to do this for me.

We pay lip service to “scaling one-to-one” in a world where authenticity and personalization matter. The problem with scaling one-to-one is it takes a ton of work. A busy PR person needs to send their pitch to 100 people right now! Yet sending it to 10 might be fine, if each email is personally crafted. Bottom line, when you make the reporter feel important or good about themselves, you boost your chances of being heard immeasurably.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.