Following a post I did about the aggravation of PR flacks belonging to social networks, I received an invite on the Axiom phone booth from Ms. Lois Whitman-Hess, telling me to call her and discuss what so many PR people are doing wrong.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but because all new media is so subjective in content, anything goes online really—especially if you hide behind “anonymous.” I call those people cowards, but still we are now very much into the world of transparency, mutual self-disclosure, and the “anything goes” mentality. If somebody can do a better job of explaining this, please hit me up here and we’ll give you some blog space.
And now for the new media reality unraveled…
Read, Comment, Repeat
You’re an old-school PR practitioner if you aren’t following this routine, as part of building a relationship using new media platforms, such as blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed (that one’s pretty obvious). But don’t overdo it; don’t flood their space with comments and then soon after pitch them a product or service. Offering valuable information every now and then will engage the reporter in what you’re saying.
For example, a reporter tweets about the upcoming Grammy Awards. You then @ reply them and provide them a link to the winning Grammy Poster artist. I’m not even kidding. Though they’re a tech reporter and write about consumer electronics, address their personal inquiries or interests and the rest will follow…
Reporters will let YOU know
Has it ever occurred to you that you can call a reporter and ask them where they’re at with their stories? I thought it was rather asinine to do this, but welcome to transparency, being candid, and vulnerable. Because reporters (especially tech) are wrapping themselves up in social networks and blogs ALL THE TIME, they now speak this language via phone. Call them. Ask them if they think your product is a fit—that is, after you mention their trend target and recent article. This couldn’t be more spelled out by several chapters on media in this book.
Less is Indeed More
At the beginning of the 21st century, you might’ve noticed reporters and editors giving more long-winded responses to your pitch, and now you’re seeing them less and less in your inbox, perhaps not at all. The new form of e-mail is now based entirely around “time”; meaning the medium helps get the message across fast. Reporters don’t have the time because they're always on deadline and worrying about their position being eliminated.
Reporters don’t want to see pitches in paragraph form. They want some bullets and a snappy note sent to them as to why readers would like to hear about X,Y,Z. That’s it—press releases don’t work—even if a reporter tells you to send one. This is their P.C. way of saying, “Hit the road.” (Even if you research them and tie a pretty bow on your pitch package by mentioning their article in the subject line, it will still be dismissed.) This was pointed out to me when I had the opportunity to sit down with a Time Magazine reporter in New York prior to attending next day’s Digital PR 2.0 Summit. Even the e-mails she gets from her PR friends that go past one page are deleted, regardless of effectively addressing her coverage area. Consider this: if you were full and wanted to fit in some dessert, would you go for the plate with the smallest, indulgent pie slice? You would if you don’t want an overwhelming stomach ache.
The Opportunity to “Explode” Your Client’s Brand
Though this is a very overused term part of the PR industry, “strategic” is a wise move. Thanks to social networks, you now have all-out access to understanding how influential a reporter’s blog is, i.e. through trackbacking, linkbuilding, retweets. Though reporters don’t have time, PR people need to have LOTS of time. If you can identify the reporter’s sphere of influence, you’re golden. If you can’t, you’re another cashew in the can. Be like pistachio.
For example, if you know that a reporter’s blog is highly trafficked and that they’re known to tweet their blog entries, you can garner the attention of not only the blogger’s visitors and subscribers, but the many Twitter followers as well. Don’t be surprised that these numbers can amount to more than that print newspaper you’re going after in Los Angeles.
Selling your pitch to a reporter will take time, but start learning their habits on the various social media platforms, and you can see where to position your discussion with them. You’ll be way ahead of the rest and you no longer have that “flack” label.
Apologies are accepted
As you may or may not know, Lois received a lot of flack for what she says was an inaccurate display of client representation. Apparently, she doesn’t even work for the company mentioned. Navigating the new media, people are bound to make mistakes, but a reporter welcomes an apology. I appreciated my conversation with Lois and commend her for stepping forward and saying she just doesn’t get it, why it’s not okay to send out product releases to the entire CES registered attendees list, and why people can step forward and blog without consulting the source of criticism.
Lois, welcome to social media.