Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Slave to Technology

If you read my blog, you notice a trend: I often talk about what public relations needs to do, and how it needs to change. Sometimes it's a broken record, but it serves a purpose.

Now, I can be like a social media expert (something, btw, I never call myself because boy, is that a career-limiting path) and just talk about social media tools with no real world experiences or examples. Talking tools for tools sake makes you, well, a tool. Don't tell your audience about the new social media tools that have launched, because in a year or two, most of them are likely to be ignored or dead pooled. Or, in five years, we'll all talk about how quaint it was that we would recommend this or that to clients ... with no real ROI on the tools.

At the end of the day, social media and public relations is getting so caught up in the tools, that it is forgetting that it is just technology. The PR people and the firms are too dependent on technology and the tools - and these tools expand beyond social media. It includes email and instant messaging and using the computer all the damn time and never leaving the office. The tools that that PR people use almost exclusively in media relations are email and IM, and unfortunately ignore that phone looking thing on their desk.

That's a problem. A big problem.

During the big brouhaha on PR is dead, Frank Shaw built upon my post and said some of the things I meant to say.

It is not just about the relationships, but building the right relationships within the right verticals, and doing your research prior. And, yes, that takes time and involves sitting in front of the computer.

But, well, my computer monitor died - the notebook still works (I can hear it!) but the screen is dark. No clue why, and just need to go to the "doctor" to get it checked out. But it was a good reminder that we are too caught up in technology. We have so fallen in love with technology, that we can't do anything without it.

So, once upon a time, I was working at a PR firm. I was asked to help out on a media tour, and while I didn't know the client well, I knew the story enough to send out a quick round of email pitches (which another person had claimed to do). The difference? I actually called the reporters, and booked the media tour via phone.

Yes, I do good phone. I was able to get on the phone, quickly encapsulate the pitch into 30-seconds for a reporter, and get the meeting. I booked the tour in two days.

So, instead of just talking about tools and pontificating, here's my advice to PR firms with junior staff. Or, to any PR person that wants to have better media relations skills.
  1. Put away your keyboard. No, seriously, have the keyboard taken away. Emails can be answered at a later time, and if it really is an emergency, the client will call you and your coworker will walk over to your office. But, in PR, very rarely is anything in PR an emergency (such, well, that will be a life and death situation). Put away the keyboard, and only use the phone.
  2. Call up a reporter and offer to meet for coffee or lunch. No, it's not to pitch them, but to find out what stories they want to write about, and to learn more about them. It's this real world networking thingie. I know - a total mind fuck!
  3. Pick up the damned phone. Deals aren't closed via email. Pitches aren't closed via email. Media tours are not booked or finalized via email. It's done by phone. It's simple - the strong use the phone, the weak stick to email. Pick up the phone and talk to reporters and analysts.
While technology has its place in public relations, we have been over-relying on the tools for so long that the basics of public relations - the relationships and the connectivity with face-to-face meetings and the ability to do good phone - have been lost. It's the few that can do it, and do it well.

We have become slaves to technology - and it has only become worse with the social media tools. Break the chains and get back to basics.
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