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Three sins every PR hack commits and how to fix them

The innocent mandate

My theory: Every single person in public relations has been handed down a mandate that they must connect with business writers, as well as companies, through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the mandate, but superiors must have gotten together at a conference and decided gee, this Twitter is pretty neat, that will make it so easy for our PR reps to connect with others, a thought that has led to an emphasis on a higher quantity of connections.

It’s no wonder that the  focus on quantity over quality  has led to the perception of a sloppy PR industry full of individuals that do little more than spam the world blindly. To the recipients of these emails, that perception IS the reality.

As the Editor-in-chief at a highly visible business magazine, my email address has somehow been added to every PR hack’s email list on the planet (yes, the planet, not just America as proven by the emails in French and Spanish I often receive).

Why do I say they are hacks?

Because there are three missing elements to their email pitch.

(1) These email pitches are blindly sent out to every email a PR rep can get their hands on without any research.

(2) These pitches are not human, they sound like a late night infomercial and aren’t actually directed personally to the recipient.

(3) These pitches are rarely timely, as firms send them out days and weeks after they’ve put them on the press release wires (And since I run a site that focuses on fresh news? Pitches that are so far behind the curves are thus not news, thus I don’t care about them).

Those three things guarantee no response.

I am not in PR, I am the recipient of PR, and I see a huge problem in the PR industry, because these three things are simple to fix and so obvious, but 99.99% of email pitches I get from now until I die will commit these three sins.

Absolution of these sins:

These sins are not mortal sins; they can be repaired. Here’s how:

Research.

Before you send a pitch, do three things:

(1) Search the website you are pitching to for your product name, as they may already have written positively or negatively about you. There’s nothing more offensive than a PR team not knowing we’ve already covered them and sung their praises (which after a blind pitch, we certainly won’t do anymore).

(2) Search LinkedIn for the person you’re emailing to and know their role. When you’re emailing a CEO, your language should not be the same as you would use when emailing an administrative assistant.

(3) Search Twitter for the company you’re pitching- are they formal or informal? Match your tone and try to fit into their culture- you’ll get much further.

Be human.

I have this theory that many PR people are cyborgs that have scripts embedded in their brain that they cannot deviate from, and emails from these cyborgs are often ignored.

If an email from a PR firm comes to me and doesn’t have my name or a personal note in it, it may not get priority attention. Don’t just send a press release, give some highlights and thank the recipient for considering covering your company.

Bonus: if you take the extra step to get a custom quote from the C-suite, and let the recipient know you’ve done that, the chances of your success skyrocket.

Timeliness.

These PR firms fail to understand that most news organizations have (shocker!) a news policy (here is ours, for example).

Some will only write exclusives or scoops, so the minutes it takes a PR rep to send a blanket press release out are minutes wasted. If the email is sent a week after a press release, it probably won’t go anywhere.

I see so many press releases that are blindly sent that the notion of people being paid to waste my time makes my head spin.  And I’m not alone in this feeling.

If you’re a PR person and you’re reading this, the chances of you committing these three sins is low, so we encourage you to share this publicly and with the rest of the PR world so that the message is spread. My favorite PR people do the three things listed above – research, they are human and they are timely… now if only the rest of the PR world could fall in line!

Image courtesy of Flickr user sharonpak.

Lani Rosales, named one of Real Estate’s 100 Most Influential, as well as 12 Most Influential Women in Real Estate, is a business writer hailing from the great state of Texas in the city of Austin. As a digital native, Lani is immersed not only in advanced technologies and new media, but is also a stats nerd often buried in piles of reports. Lani is a proven leader, thoughtful speaker, and vested partner at AGBeat, as well as the AGBeat Editor-in-Chief.


    1. It is sad. Instead of putting in the work to nurture relationships, far to many try to play a numbers game. Thanks for a great post Lani… Ill share it in the hopes that a light bulb may go off in some spammers head.

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      • I’m *trying* not to judge too harshly. Because on the one hand, it could be sheer laziness. But I often wonder – if it doesn’t work, why do people still do it? Are they just doing what their boss said? Why does their boss say that, if so? Does this actually work on some people who are trained to see this as “this is just how PR is done?” Because if enough bad pitches are getting through for other reasons, what’s the incentive for them to stop?

        At any rate, I’m glad the dialogue is starting. Not all of it is being done elegantly – there have been a couple of nasty battles made public in recent months. But at the same time, people are starting to talk. Wouldn’t it be nice if, in 2 years, we weren’t talking about this anymore because it was that much of a non-issue?@ramartijr

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        • @Tinu It would be nice Tinu..

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        • @Tinu@ramartijr ah, wishful thinking, this article will still be timely in 2020, I predict because it isn’t new. I see the problem accelerating because the line between media and blogs is blurred and PR professionals have to reach out not only to media outlets but to every Tom Dick and Harry with a WordPress login. That said, great PR people stand out so very easily.

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          • Yes, and I’m hoping only the great ones will stand the test of time. But I’m a dreamer. I shudder what will happen when the wide black line between the offline world and the online world becomes a thin grey line of fuzz. @laniar @ramartijr

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    2. This is some good advice and I’ll share this, with one caveat: PR is more than just press releases and media (and blogger) relations, therefore these are sins of publicity. FWIW.

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      • I’ll let the author speak for herself, but I didn’t read this as meaning publicity is all there is to PR. Thanks fro the share. :)

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      • @3HatsComm Absolutely, there is so much more than press releases, but unfortunately, a press release is the most common contact we have with PR professionals, very few try to make contact beyond that. :)

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