Note: This post was originally published on the WebMarketCentral blog in August 2007, but has withstood the test of time very well. This was the first of two guest-posts from PR guru-ess Cece Salomon-Lee on how Web 2.0 has changed the practice of PR and how PR professionals can best take advantage of blogging and other social media.
When Tom asked me to contribute an article about PR and blogging outreach, I was both flattered and yet apprehensive at the same time. I mean, I admit it. I’ve been guilty of sending inappropriate pitches to reporters—and in the age of growing blogosphere influence and shrinking print staffs—bloggers as well.
But as I thought about this further, I realized that this is more than how to pitch bloggers versus traditional media. It goes to how today’s generation of PR practitioners are being trained—or maybe not trained—to communicate effectively with media, and by extension bloggers. It goes to the core skills of what being a GOOD PR person is or isn’t. And it may also be applicable to how PR agencies staff accounts.
I’ve had discussions with my colleagues about this over the years. In order to address how one should pitch a blogger, we first have to look at what is changing in our industry that may be impacting PR practitioners and in a round about way, answer the question of how to pitch a blogger. Note—I focus on agencies because the majority of PR is still done by agencies.
1) Multigenerational Workforce
I think that there is a huge generational gap happening right now. At no other time in our history have there been so many generations in the workforce: Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y/Millenials. Each generation has their own set of objectives, working styles and more. This is leading to a culture clash in many agencies where you have entrenched practitioners (typically Generation X or Baby Boomers) dealing with an influx of Gen Y and Millennials.
The next generation of practitioners come into the workplace expecting to be promoted every six months. They believe that they know everything without recognizing the value of senior counsel. And are oftentimes “arrogant” and don’t realize that they can’t do everything and should request help. Valley PR Blog put it well in a posting on “Feeding the ‘Burger King’ Generation”: They require lots of praise, are quick to judge, often take criticism too personally and, as an Internet-reared consumer culture, have to have things “their way.”
The issue isn’t “how we should be more accommodating” to this generation, but rather how does an organization recognize the multiple generations and work together to address them. Each generation must understand the pros and cons of each other to minimize these issues.
Otherwise, the industry may inadvertently be promoting individuals before they have the appropriate skills, which continues the cycle to the next generation.
2) Focus on Results, Not Quality
I consider myself “old-school” PR, receiving the majority of my training during the dot com boom and bust. During my “generation,” minor grammatical errors were scrutinized and higher ups weren’t afraid to rake you over the coals for mistakes. We were taught to thoroughly research reporter beats and magazines before pitching. I know, I know. It’s the still the case now, but I think there has been a shift in how this is done.
I think poor habits are being tolerated as long as the team can get the results. And in the fast, busy pace of an agency, people frankly don’t have the time to check everything that exits the doors. You get:
- Attention to detail is being replaced with just get the email out. Grammar and spelling be damn.
- If the reporter or magazine seems tangentially related, then don’t worry about taking time to research beats, past stories and magazine focus as long as you have the volume of pitches out there.
- Though results are still important, I believe that the “quality” of results is being sacrificed for quantity of numbers that may have some or none of your company’s messages.
3) Agency Structure Promotes Billings, Not Client Service
The quality is further exacerbated by how agencies staff accounts based on account size and billings. In order to remain profitable, each account person must fill all of their billable hours in a month. However, the way an agency staffs an account—minimally with a director, account manager and one junior member—oftentimes necessitates, in an ideal situation, a person be on 3-4 accounts in order to fill those hours. Honestly, this can balloon up to 5-6 accounts, if not more!
And in my experience, an account typically requires media relations (I’ll include blog relations in this for now), strategy, and than awards/speaking opportunities. Now multiply this by three or four different accounts, technologies, client expectations, managers, as well as new business—it’s very tough to keep the level of quality for all the accounts.
I personally advocate more focused teams (smaller) that spend a majority of their time on 2-3 accounts. I think we would see less stress, increased knowledge of a clients technology, and deeper relationships with media/bloggers who cover that company. Is this viable? I don’t know and would love to hear from PR practitioners out there.
I focused on the macro issues that impact how PR practitioners relate to bloggers. In a second posting, I’ll look at some tangible tips for approaching bloggers.
Note: Cece Salomon-Lee is the author of the PRMeetsMarketing blog. The thoughts expressed in this posting are not representative of ON24 and are the personal views of the author.