As we live in an age full of keyboard warriors who would much rather live in their parent’s lofts and comment on articles without reading them rather than, say, going out and getting a life, we begin today’s missive with the following statement: I know a lot of, and work with, some excellent public relations professionals – both freelance and from large agencies.
Now that has been firmly established, you will forgive me when I say that I grow weary with some representatives from PR land.
I proffer an example: This week, my editor and I received a press release from a PR agency we had never heard of representing a client we didn’t know. Marvellous. There was some information, none of it especially important, no associated image, and very little sense of effort. It could have only been made worse if it carried a virus that caused the computer to explode in my face.
You may leap from your beanbag at this point and defend the practise of sending a template email out with the same news release to all and sundry and, again, there is no problem with this in principle. I absolutely understand that a PR can’t type out a press release in 100 different ways and send it out individually. Bulk mail-shots are a convenient and essential tool. If I want a fresh quote to set me apart from the rest then I will ask for it, that is my task to undertake.
But, and here’s the thing, there’s more to public relations than just sending out press releases, and the sooner some people get their heads around that the quicker we can all go down the pub.
So, what is to be done?
A clue to Fullard’s First Law of Public Relations is in the name: relations. A good PR will not hide behind an email. As a mindless hack, I like to get to know people, because people are invariably more interesting – sometimes. If a PR makes an effort to build an affable relationship with me, then we will both be able to do our jobs a trifle better.
Simply sending me an email about new hand soap dispensers when I don’t know who you are is, frankly, lazy.
There’s more, too. How do you know that the information is relevant to my readers? If I’m running a website for the events industry, it is unlikely I’m going to be very interested in Danish agricultural policy. Why didn’t you get in touch to ask me what I want or what I feel my readers would like to learn about? Pitch me ideas, I encourage it, but for goodness sake, ask me what I want too.
It’s important that the PR also knows that they’re not wasting their time with a publication that has no relevance to whichever client they’re representing.
And another thing: pictures. Please, for the love of all that is holy, be sure to send a picture with your press release. And let us think about this logically, too. Most websites require a landscape image, so why send a 43kb portrait thumbnail? I would be better off breaking out the easel and oils and painting it myself than end up with a pixelated jumble atop my website.
Good PR is like a Labrador. At first there are kinks when it runs around eating everything and having accidents on the living room rug while I work out how best to manage it. Before too long, though, I will treat it with a walk and maybe a delicious crispy pig’s ear. And if I throw a stick, I hope it will try and fetch it. It’s a mutual relationship: the dog gets a walk, and I get my twig back. Everyone is happy.
To help streamline the process, I have taken it upon myself to produce this handy cut out ‘n’ keep guide to good PR from a journalist’s perspective which, if followed, will prove beneficial for everyone:
1. Build a relationship with me.
I admit it’s not an especially detailed guide, but that is all you need to do.