PR: Contacts or Content?
Occasionally, as a tech PR guy, I am asked to ‘use my contacts’ to get some once off story or other into the media.
There is a perception out there that PR guys can get anything they want into the media, and I know that some members of my profession like to perpetuate that view. Well, here’s one PR guy that doesn’t make that promise, and would advise giving a wide berth to anyone who does. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Generally, I am not great on ‘stand-alone’ stories to begin with. For PR programmes to be any way effective, they need to be an ongoing narrative which establishes a company and its products within its own industry context or framework. No ‘once off’ story can ever achieve this. It’s like tossing a pebble into a pond: plink! – a few ripples, and then…nothing. When I was a younger man, there was a 'tech PR' firm here in Dublin who used offer to 'place stories' in the media here in Ireland. Their stock in trade? Eh, "optimistic" jobs announcements. Worked too - month after month, smiling ceos with their "50 jobs" or "30 jobs" announcements in the tech pages. And then...silence.
PR is only really effective when it is telling a ‘story’, and we use various elements to do this: press releases, opinion pieces, features, newsletters, etc., to build that story over time. And of course throughout this process, you always have to keep in focus what the purpose of the exercise is – to reach your audience, raise your funds, attract the right people to you, and sell your stuff. So where does your 'once off' story fit into this strategy? The truth is that really, it doesn't. A 'once off' story will last for what, 3 days? At best?
Then there are the tech PR guys 'contacts'. So who exactly are these people? In the tech PR game, one finds oneself dealing with different verticals from client to client: fintech for one company, semiconductors for another, robotics for a third, and so on. With each new vertical comes a whole new set of very specific contacts - these are the commentators and editors who help shape opinions of their industry.
It is fair to say that generally, these are always impressive individuals with deep industry knowledge - and with each of these, credibility must be established: credibility to deliver compelling and newsworthy content that will stand up to journalistic scrutiny. Why is this? Its because for these individuals, their credibility is their bond, so naturally everything they write and publish under their watch has to measure up to their, and their publications' standards. And that means your story.
A PR persons’ contacts are actually working relationships based on trust; relationships which are developed through credibility and delivery. Mine are anyway. So, can I ‘use my contacts’ to get a once off story into the media? Of course I can! Just try using your ‘once off’ as a start point to telling your wider story, and I will definitely be able to help you.
(Pic: Cromwell's Point Lighthouse and Beginish from Geokaun)