I have worked in PR for over eight years. I now have other roles as well — including this blog — but I continue to work in PR. For the first time this month I have experienced the other side of the fence. And suddenly I understand why so many journalists are so disparaging about PR practitioners.
To give me the access I need to do research for this blog, and for my roles on local TV and radio, I have registered as a fully fledged member of the press for the forthcoming Mobile World Congress. This is a trade show on a truly massive scale with more than 40,000 people descending on Barcelona for a week. Big trade shows mean lots of companies, and hence lots of PRs.
Over the last week I have received over 100 invites to meet with companies at the event. Of those, only one showed any evidence of having read this blog, or researched the other media that I work for. Now I admit that there are mitigating circumstances. There are hundreds of journalists attending the event, of whom I am probably amongst the least important. Time is short and there are many clients to pitch. But let me proffer some advice — advice I will be giving to my own PR colleagues as well. It is not rocket science and it is nothing I didn’t know already. Only now I understand just how important it is.
1. Choose your targets carefully. There may be hundreds of press attending but really, are they all relevant to your client?
2. Read the publications you are targeting and write your pitches appropriately.
3. Tell the journalists why they might be interested. Just because something is new, unique or leading, does not make it a story.
There. Three tips. Yes it will seem like it takes longer to get through the list, but you will have a shorter list to go to. And a much, much higher hit rate. I don’t mean to chide and sound all snooty, but when PRs do a bad job and journos complain, it does none of us in the industry any good.
For any other PR who might take the time to read this, here’s what I’m looking for at the event:
– Consumer-friendly stories that can be demonstrated visually either in a still photo or on a video clip (don’t expect a film crew — this will be a distinctly gonzo approach)
– Technology that will have a marked impact on society; how we interact, communicate, and consume media
– Great parties.
Invite me to any of those and I will try to oblige. I may not be the most important journalist out there, but with the chance of coverage online, on BBC local radio, and on local TV, surely I have to be worth a punt? And a bit of effort in the pitch.