Should You be Pitching me?

You give me way too much credit if you think your potential customers read my blog. You misunderstand and misapply influence and you're giving away your inexperience with new media. Let's be clear, I still like you, I just find it easy to skip over your pitch. Go build your own audience.

New media is not traditional media, only on blogs. PR is very much in need of a reinvention beyond pitching bloggers press releases, signing people up to moderate communities, and building lists instead of relationships. What does it take to do PR in new media?

I'm thinking that a non PR person will revolutionize the industry by forgetting the following three things:

  1. never mind whether PR means press releases, let's start a new conversation
  2. moderation goes beyond answering on behalf of someone, it means enabling connections
  3. building relationships means understanding the social graph

It's no secret that public relations is the last conservative stronghold inside organizations. Even branding people have relaxed into the joy and fun of collaborating with customers. So how can PR professionals stop drinking their own kool-aid when pitching bloggers?

Start a new conversation

Write content worthy of attention and not just propaganda. Some ideas on what you do when they don't write about your story range from completing an existing story by providing additional insights, actually doing something interesting or worthy of notice, developing the story so it captures the point of differentiation.

There is no scarcity of the same very topics. What is missing, for example, is a well-researched approach focused on what makes a product or service different. Better today is relative and you still need to prove it.

Enable connections

This goes beyond just moderating a community, sending @replies on Twitter and reporting a KPI like say someone answering a tweet as a result. None of this is inherently bad, mind you. It's just not enough. There are at least three ways communicators can help businesses move the needle online.

Enable connections by finding fans and organize them, listening and learning from negative sentiment, creating interest around something the people you're looking to attract have in common. Get into the action.

Understand the social graph

With social tools, the purpose of business has now become to create a customer who in turn creates customers [thank you, Shiv]. Here's where you need to pay attention to the social graph, loosely defined as the global map of everything online and how we're related.

Your audience is not my audience. So you have a couple of options and they both revolve around relationships, something you should know a lot about.

You either appeal to my audience directly by offering content and news that fit and align with things that are helpful to them, which, let's face it, is probably quite rare. Or you are in a relationship with me not so that I publish your content, if we can call a press release that. You are in fact building that relationship to be introduced to my social graph.

Do I know or read someone who would be interested in your news? Chances are I am loosely connected to them. How can you help people share your news with their networks? By executing on the first two points here and sharing with me who your news is intended for and what makes the product/company/service different.

The fragmentation of new media is such that without direct knowledge and experience, you have no idea who those people would be. So be creative, help me and people like me help you find those people your customers trust. Then take note and learn to value those relationships, including the one that got you there.

Whatever you do, please stop writing that my readers would be interested in a pitch you just sent to a massive list of blogs, each unique and with a unique audience, unless you're willing to take the time to tell me exactly why and how it would benefit them.

If this sounds like a lot of work you're not getting paid for, then go out and build your own audience.

[social graph by Havas Digital and Media6Degrees]

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0 responses to “Should You be Pitching me?”

  1. I have concrete evidence that this is true. As a 40-ahem-something, I have spent years sending out traditional press releases to a “media list” to almost no avail. Then, several months ago, I casually sent a two line email directly to a relevant blogger/journalist I had been following, and my story ended up on CNN Headline News and NPR. I now wholeheartedly have thrown out all PR “rules” I learned in school (I was so hilariously attached to the ##), and am trying to convince my PR intern that all of the stuff she’s just learned in school is out the window. Tough to hear, but true.
    I should note that I am not a true PR practitioner, just a founder who has taken on the PR duties within our lean organization.
    Thanks for the straight talk from a blogger’s perspective. It must be frustrating to be bombarded with irrelevant stuff all the time.

  2. Finding “For Immediate Release” in my inbox is a lot like finding two young men in white shirts, black ties, and name tags on my front porch. It’s best to just pretend nobody’s home, but I’m not above telling them to hit the bricks, either. I know what they’re selling, I don’t believe in it, and I am not interested. Amscray.
    As a retired community moderator/admin, I believe that online communities should make *everyone* a moderator. When there are only a handful of moderators, an us-vs-them situation takes root. What happens when you give your community members the power to maintain and police the commons? They take ownership.
    This is the power of trust. Instead of grooming people to be moderators, to keep the community in line and marching to the same, tired beat, let everyone choose their own instrument and play along. Groom *conductors* to lead everyone in harmony.
    I’d go into social graphs too, but that point doesn’t inspire me like the other two. Sounds like some sort of social media popularity contest metric to me.
    Don’t think I’ve ever used this saying in a comment here before, but lately I’ve been finding it deeply motivating. In the Mitsubishi/DSM community, dating back to 1989, the motto has always been “Go fast with class.”
    It applies to more than just old Mitsubishis…

  3. @Rosemary – one wonders where the rules came from in the first place. It was probably something that succeeded at one point and people sold as the way to do things because publishing and spreading news was concentrated in the hands of a few. Now you’d want to get your information in the hard of the right people, which could be few of them with the right networks and connections. There is also something to be said about the nature of news vis-a-vis the context in which it plays. You would not believe how lame some of the pitches are 😉
    @Brian – unbelievably I still get the occasional team or person ringing my door bell, then knocking furiously or helplessly right after. It feels invasive. Well, I moderated communities as well and can tell you that not everyone wants to be a moderator… in some cases the community prefers to have someone in a leadership role, especially in the beginning to do the upfront work that gets things started. Hmmm, what the part about the social graph says is I may not be the right person, however my loosely connected contact could. If you have a good relationship with me, I’d be more willing to make introductions.

  4. As a former assignment manager who threw away the great majority of the press releases I received, I can tell you that they weren’t even doing it right before new media, when pitching traditional media. What I really wanted was a story. Why is this news relevant? What will my viewers get out of it? Save the five paragraphs about the company history and tell me why it deserves any portion of my small 22 minute news hole. The mindset shift needed in this regard is very real.
    This is beautifully written! This is also why it must be understood that true blogger outreach, that you want to be successful requires a great deal of time and research, and if you want someone to find the real people who have audiences who would benefit from your message,then it is their time that must be paid for, if you in fact cannot do it on your own. When they inform you about the time required for relationship building, you can’t balk. You have to put something in to get something out. This sloppiness that you reference in this post is unacceptable. I’ve been dealing with PR professionals for years, again–dismissing their pitches, and I maintain that this is not difficult to understand, but it requires a shift in mindset. Now, at an agency as social media manager, I am able to facilitate change internally, and I am happy to do it.

  5. I think this issue goes beyond pitching new media va. traditional. It’s about changing the mindset that if you send out enough pitches, someone will eventually write about it. This approach demonstrates a lack of understanding of the fundamentals of PR, which, from my perspective, is to provide relevant information for the reporter/blogger, etc. At times, this has meant even providing content unrelated to my company/client to build a long-term relationship.
    Per Angela’s comments, it also raises the issue of how most PR agencies charge for this work (hourly) and what clients are willing to pay for it (results). And believe me, this raises another set of issues regarding client’s expecations for “immediate media hits” without understanding what it takes to deliver quality vs. quantity.
    Overall, I think this will improve as unlike most journalists, more bloggers have the freedom to address this via their blogs and social media. Which good PR practitioners will read, absorb and share with their clients.

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