PR Has a PR Problem

PR has its own kind of PR problem. The bad actors are email spammers who throw pitches at you even if there is absolutely no fit. You’d expect that, because they are spammers after all.  There are legit PR people who put you on their list without asking.  This makes them seem like spammers, even though I’m sure they are very nice. This spammy behavior causes some people, whom I am sure are also very nice, to send me hatey emails about my emails, which they say are very spammy.  This is an elaborate version of ‘one bad apple spoils the bunch,’ except that there are a lot of spammers, too many irrelevant messages, and a whiff of desperation about the whole pitch process. 

I have a solution for this. It’s called relevance.  If we all pitched relevant material to the right people, and made that a moral imperative of doing PR and marketing, everyone would be happier.  When people get mad at me for pitching them it’s because they think I don’t know them. They feel that my pitch wasn’t personally created for them but was part of a mass email.  Let’s unpack that sentiment.

I work pretty hard to get to know writers, bloggers, influencers and journalists before I send them a pitch. I will watch and listen to them on social media to learn as much about them as I can.  I will use apps like pressrush.com to check their writing so I can understand their interests and pitch to them. 

Every once in a while I screw up hilariously.  A blogger recently responded to my pitch asking what it had to do with wild horses. She only writes about wild horses.  She had me there. My pitch had absolutely nothing to do with horses, wild or otherwise.  My research was flawed, even a little stupid, and I wrote her back to say just that.  

Recently, I pitched a prominent writer at a big newspaper.  She wrote back, and I could almost hear the exasperated sigh. ‘I write obits, only obits,’ she said. ‘Trust me, you don’t want me writing about your client.’ That gave me a laugh, and I wrote back, ‘You’re dead right about that.’

The issue in both fails was relevance. My research hit a rock in the road and crashed, or I failed to carefully research the writer I was pitching.  When you’re sending out a couple hundred pitches, it’s tempting to say about number 145, ‘oh, I can skip checking this one. It will be alright.’  

It will not be alright.  

Relevance is a moral imperative in PR, and it’s what good pitches are made of.