Can I can get a big cup of STFU please?

How many times can you beat a dead horse? Apparently, every quarter if that horse is the PR is dead meme.

Well, this time it's more a slow build kicking of the horse: the recent meme started with the launch of Cuil, and Robert Scoble not being pre-briefed. There, he decided that he's done with the PR game.

Robert fed the fire with his recent post highlighting a company that he found through word of mouth - albeit a company that is not a mass consumer product, and likely will do okay with little PR.

It bubbled up in other posts - from Steve Rubel (who seems to forget that he's in PR and collects a pay-check at the world's largest independent PR firm), from TechCrunch, from Mashable. All people that have and continue to profit from PR people and PR firm relationships, with scoops and sneak previews. Here's the usual TechMeme crowd putting their voices into the one-way conversation.

A more balanced POV came from ReadWriteWeb - the pro's and con's of what is happening in PR.

So, here's my .02 - there's nothing new here. There's nothing new being said, just the same things every year (or is it every quarter now?).

I have written in the past that we need to train and educate. It's simple, and yet the firms aren't fully embracing it.

And, Ryost made the most pointed comment on Twitter to my first eye-roll on the situation: PR will become more valuable as newsrooms continue to shrink.

The fact is that social media is ONE part of public relations. A SMALL part, if you are a good PR person or firm. The other parts are traditional media (while it might be shrinking, it still reaches that middle part of the country), analyst relations, events, and more.

PR is about relationships. It's about relationships so much that Lowe's went to Abraham Harrison for it's recent project because of its relationships with people at Lowe and because of their relationships with bloggers. See - it's about relationships.

It's also about writing, about talking, about conveying a story. But, without those relationships, there's nothing there. And, unfortunately, with the industry's reliance on technology - let's email, let's launch a blog, let's get Twitter, let's do this and that ... well, you're failing in PR.

As my friend Andy Abramson (and, full disclosure, my firm) notes, it's BAM now: Bloggers, Analysts, Media. You need to have the right mix for the right story, and it's never one size fits all. Go and try to do local PR and see how far the social media only strategy works.

Social media is just a tool in the PR mix. And, it's just a good tool in the mix for certain clients and brands. For technology and consumer technology, it's great. For consumer goods, it's great. But, it's NOT the only thing. The PR bloggers - on some level - have become so enamored with the tools, that they are unable to take a step back but have become lost in their reflection like Narcissus.

But with the current posts - just concentrating on technology only - even the companies with no PR are not going to survive. You need to be able to tell a story, have trained executives that know what and what not to say in public, you need to have a plan.

The thing is - it's not just PR people that need to educate. It's bloggers and social media people. There are certain social norms that are kept in the norm, but seem to be ignored and broken in social media.

Now, I'm not talking about the embargo fiasco with Jeff Pulver; the PR person there should have not sent out a mass email, should have sent individualized outreach, and just asked the simple "do you do embargoes" without all the news.

I'm talking about being invited to press conferences or events. That invitation means that you are getting special insight - and by blogging guesses on what it is, just to be ahead of the curve - provides no real value to the readership, but is just guessing and hurts the press conference because the PR firm is inundated with people that want to be included in the press conference.

There goes that exclusivity and news hook.

So, here's my simple rules for public relations professionals.

1. Develop relationships. If you are a PR person - at any level - and cannot call up a reporter (not email, but pick up the damn phone) and set up a lunch to talk ... the you are not providing value. From the AAE to the SVP, you need to have relationships. If push comes to shove on a client deadline, everyone should pick up the phone and pitch and land a meeting. If the SVP is so detached from the media and client, what value is there?

2. Read. Not just blogs, but media. Traditional, social, new - be on a steady diet of media, so you think beyond today's news and come up with trend pieces and stories.

3. Think beyond today. It's not a race, it's a marathon. It's the long term strategies that work, not the panic. A good PR person never sweats, never panics but is calm.

4. For the PR bloggers that are calling for PR to be dead - if you believe that the industry needs to change, go to your local college and teach a session or two. Mentor students that email you - if memory serves, I have responded to and helped every college student that has written to me (War Eagle, my favorite PITAs) - both in the US and internationally. Instead of bitching about the state of PR, go do something.

I'm not prone to think PR is dead or dying. I do believe there are issues, but also talk to junior staff, help out when I get bad pitches (hey, I get them a lot and respond back to them), and try to help out for the most part. Instead of just talk, walk a little.

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30 comments

  1. Wow, what a masterwork! I can feel the energy coursing through your body while you were writing this article -- it feels almost cathartic. Both insightful and cathartic. I am going to go back and read the article a little closer now for a second and third time and also pass it by my staff. This is a must-read.

    Also, thank you so much for the shout out to Abraham Harrison. Much obliged.

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  2. Synopsis - It's just a tool, don't be one.

    Well done.

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  3. I always learn from you. Mostly just common sense.

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  4. Ahh this is why you have the nickname I gave you. ;)

    This was excellent. I'm not sure if you saw my comment on Max Kahlehoff's post this morning that had included Steve Rubel, but I had mentioned that instead of deleting pitches I get to my own blog, I now email back and tell them why their pitch was wrong in hopes that they will learn. Maybe it's a waste of time, but at least I can feel like I am doing something about it.

    And I laughed out loud when you said to try to do social media PR locally--I live rural and I can tell you that my area knows more about John Deere than they do social media. Social Media type PR would not go very far. Although, that is what I do and that is what I love--I also completely understand where it fits and where it doesn't.

    Bravo Jeremy.

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  5. Sigh. Another group of tech people with absolutely no knowledge (or experience) in the overall public relations world. You know, optometrists can correct myopia. Why is it so hard to do the same for these tech myopic goobers?

    They look at the world through their 1% contact experiences. What do I mean by that? The PR people they interact with in tech world likely represent only 1% of the total number of PR practitioners in the world. Yet, these untrained, uneducated and kool-aid drunk self-proclaimed PR experts are really PR neophytes.

    Sigh again. It won't change, Jeremy. They have an audience. Sheep.

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  6. Bravo, Jeremy! PR isn't dead, it just needs to get smarter about who to build relationships with and how that's done. Likewise, us bloggers need to learn how to deal with PR folks and build relationships.

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  7. Jeremy,

    Why so tense...you should try Sanka brand?

    You're quite right that media shifts never happen in revolutions - its always evolutionary - I always love the wide-eyed futurists who predict the demise of stuff next year (makes for headlines, I guess).

    The one thing I would be worried about - whether its Bloggers, Analysts or Media - PR are the middlemen - if they are not adding value as a link in the chain than why have it.

    Using old PR solutions for new PR landscape is making their value in some circles glaringly trivia.

    If you're in PR, look at the music industry - if a label can be reduced to shreds, so can you.

    Good fodder for thought, thanks for the post.

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  8. Hey Jeremy,
    There are few that did not jump on the "bandwagon" without being in the industry.

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  9. Well said, again. And I can't tell you how many times I've read Tweets, posts, whatevers and said, "STFU" out loud to no one in particular.

    When I get real mad, I practice backhanding them should I see them in person. Gotta keep my pimp hand strong.

    Werd

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  10. I love when you write with passion.

    I like your BAM piece. I hadn't heard that before.

    Further, I'm in full agreement about relationships. My favorite PR people are those I know, and with whom I've had a kind of friendship long before I saw my first pitch. Boy, the difference THAT makes.

    Great stuff, Jeremy.

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  11. @Jeremy - as always you're right (mostly.) To your point about go do something? As a tech blogger who gets pissed off the poor PR (which hasn't changed in 20 years I've been on a tech beat) the thing that REALLY pisses me off is the number of so-called social media experts who hear me bitching but never, ever ask me to go speak to their OWN constituencies. I guess they know what I'll say - you freakin' suck. And as an aside, all the socmed glitz won't save you if you don't do the basics right in the first place.

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  12. it is professional lying no matter how you spin it. selfishness in action.

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  13. Everyone already said it before me, except for this Gregory guy...

    Gregory-
    PR is not just "selfishness in action". In fact, I spent half my day today working on putting press materials together for a local nonprofit organization that offers refuge for women and families that are victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. When I finally chose to do this as a profession, I knew I was on the right track because I felt like I had something of value to contribute in the world. Oh, and I HATE the word "spin".

    Jeremy-
    I love how you laid this all out. I agree that it's about finding the mix of what is right for each client and each situation -- the BAM mix is certainly different each time.

    Unfortunately, I don't think that most senior people share their relationships with junior PR staff. Even as college students, others are viewed as a threat. People focus on tactics, but the relationships are where it's at.

    Thanks, Jeremy, for the very impassioned post... but what does this have to do with Hustle and Flow? :)

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  14. PR is not dead. It's changing...you makes some good points as does Mr Dennis Howlett

    keep rolling and please continue to call out all the bloggers who pissed because they are being passed over due to the fact that they are irrelevant... that is hard for some of the big bloggers to grok and accept. most of the posts claiming knowledge about PR from bloggers is so funny that I have to read them twice.

    keep calling bullshit on them J-Man

    http://furrier.org/2008/08/13/yes-pr-is-changing-get-used-to-it-its-about-dialog-collaboration-transactions/

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  15. Jeremy - As always, you are right on. It baffles me how so many social media evangelizers (and even straight-ahead corporate comms folks) just don’t understand that social media is simply another tool on the belt for PR people. It’s an ingredient. Find what tactics align with your company’s or campaign’s communications goals, use them and use them well.

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  16. Jeremy, I totally agree with you. Especially on two points. PR agencies are not doing enough to educate and train employees and for consumer goods especially, social media isn't enough.

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  17. This was a totally fabulous piece of writing. And I completely commend you for responding to terrible pitches. When I first stared, I had no sweet clue what I was doing, and probably would have benefited pitching to someone who had the time to tell me if I was terrible or not!

    Anyways, great write (& great read!)

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  18. PR isn't dead Jeremy. PR agencies are. Relationships and good work are done increasingly by fewer and fewer individuals who are focused on life-long learning and improvement. Good relationships are held by individuals, not businesses.

    Increasingly I've found that shareholder profits are put before doing excellent work and that management by timesheets and spreadsheets are the drivers to whether or not companies feel their individuals are doing good work. There are now very few good large PR agencies that do not suffer from this. And unfortunately there are very few small agencies that have the skills and knowledge and drive to take their place.

    So, we're back to individual consultants who can talk to people on their own level and can build respect, or we're left with companies hiring good people internally who have the ability to know what they're talking about.

    So let's stop dancing around the issue here and say what the problem is. There is no such thing as a good PR agency that delivers shareholder value. It's an oxymoron.

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  19. Love the post-- you are my hero

    Can we please laminate this and send it to every pr firm and corporate brand out there?

    Please?

    Good grief, it's about time to realize that bloggers work faster than most media; that PR needs to listen, learn what's needed to get the story out there and realize that social media is a small segment but is a crucial one of what needs to be done.

    Asking me to post stuff --sans photo, info or logo is like talking to the wall.
    Give me all that and you *might* have a post-- generally speaking I am a generous soul who does post about a lot of stuff.
    Ask me a second time to do it and don't give me any samples, (and the I ran out of samples excuse doesn't fly).

    I have gotten to the point of telling pr people from the outset:
    Logos, images, information and then maybe a sample if it's warranted.
    If I don't have that- it's not going anywhere.

    Also if you wait till the last minute because bloggers are immediate and always available, -- not always will I do that.

    I love working with smart pr people who give me the tools I nneed.
    Given that I do my own social media spin and the people I have worked with are really happy about what I have done, I know what works because I have seen what does -- and doesn't.

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  20. in a hyper-connected world, everybody will know what you are going to say before you open your mouth.

    between now and then, you can fine-tune your career path but it simply depends upon connecting the unconnected.

    limited life-span in that.

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  21. Can't tell you how many times lately the "where the heck did PR is about relationships part go?" conversation has come up.

    It astounds me sometimes when I hear other PR pros wondering how to "use" social media - like it's a whole new discipline. Sure, there are evolving tools and trends, but it's just a new speed for an old process - of building relationships.

    And like you said, it's not for everyone, and that is just fine. Coming from a midwest media market, things here still move very much in the traditional ways, so conversations like this one just don't even apply to most practitioners - or their clients and companies - yet anyway.

    The point you bring up about harnessing industry change through the student population is important. Seems like most are familiar with the tools and the paradigm of social media, but professors and professionals who don't equip them with how that pertains to the profession aren't equipping them to translate that into their career exploration and development. The last PR class I spoke to had such a surprising lack of how this stuff applies to the field, I was blown away.

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  22. A good, old fashioned tongue lashing from Jeremy Pepper.

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  23. Loved the piece, Jeremy. I think it's time for those who actually practice PR to take on this mission and try to do something about it.

    It's going to be an uphill battle since the agencies aren't going to want to spare the people most in need, since they're the most profitable. But if we're going to keep putting our most critical work in the hand of junior-level folks, it's imperative the effort start soon.

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  24. As a PR student working for an online publication, Platform Magazine... I completely agree. Electronic media is but one medium, one tool of the PR profession. Just as news releases are. As cliche as it is to get into PR because you're a "people person," atleast that has a valid motive - getting out there and using that other tool we forget about.

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  25. I am a PR major at Auburn University in Robert French's class (you actually spoke to us today). It was great to read this, and WOW, does it ever reaffirm everything I'm studying right now. All I have to say is THANKS.

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  26. Well said, again. And I can't tell you how many times I've read Tweets, posts, whatevers and said, "STFU" out loud to no one in particular.

    When I get real mad, I practice backhanding them should I see them in person. Gotta keep my pimp hand strong.

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  27. in a hyper-connected world, everybody will know what you are going to say before you open your mouth.

    between now and then, you can fine-tune your career path but it simply depends upon connecting the unconnected.

    limited life-span in that.

    ReplyDelete
  28. in a hyper-connected world, everybody will know what you are going to say before you open your mouth.

    between now and then, you can fine-tune your career path but it simply depends upon connecting the unconnected.

    limited life-span in that.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Well said, again. And I can't tell you how many times I've read Tweets, posts, whatevers and said, "STFU" out loud to no one in particular.

    When I get real mad, I practice backhanding them should I see them in person. Gotta keep my pimp hand strong...

    ReplyDelete