PR Is Stuck In The 20th Century

Here’s the reality of public relations that no one in our industry is talking about, but we should be. While the media has changed from a print mechanism to a mobile multimedia environment, PR remains stuck in the 20th century. As consumers, we want our news on demand, and in turn demand that credible journalists give it to us immediately. And we don’t just want written stories – we want video, audio, live feeds, in living color. We’d also prefer it digested into cool headlines, in 140 characters, in 6-second vines and matching quizzes. Now, journalists need all these tools of the trade and more. And how do PR pros reach them?

Phone and email. Maybe a tweet.

Is it working? Sources say, no.

·         According to the social newsroom network Babbler, reporters delete 75% of pitches from unknown publicists and from wire service press releases – without ever opening them.

·         The Financial Times reports that there are 5 PR pros for every 1 US journalist.

·         A Forbes reporter can work on five stories/day – writing 2, editing 2 for colleagues and researching a feature story.

·         Thanks to caller-ID, an unwanted call to a reporter can get you blocked and deleted, almost instantly. Bye-bye exclusive. 

Your pitch – no matter how targeted – is an interruption.

And should an intrepid PR pro get through – then let the flood of links, content, attachments and endless back and forth commence over email, DropBox, YouSendIt, private databases and web links. 

Would we run any other part of our business this way? No chance. And yet we’re still training the newest class of PR pros to do just that.

While massive media databases have greatly helped the industry in identifying journalists, our media lists have grown from a little black book of key contacts to 1000 person databases. The result? PR pros carpet-bomb their lists instead of making each pitch relevant and timely for the media cycle. And although there are great media monitoring systems in the market, we’re still training our PR people to pester reporters and editors to find out that critical publication date. And in the end, we’re destroying the very relationships with journalists that we’re trying to build.

The advent of inbound marketing has taught savvy marketers that “pulling” in customers with killer content is not only the way to achieve sales success, but it creates educated and loyal customers in the process. Most importantly, it puts the customer in the driver’s seat – getting and choosing the content they want when they want it.

Unfortunately, PR is still functioning like a “push” mechanism – and as a result we’re perceived as pushy, instead of persistently helpful in generating news.

What media relations needs today is a social platform that allows journalists to get the full story in one location – all the clips, photos, content, sources and 1:1 communication. It should be a place that reporters check daily – like Twitter. To find breaking news on the brands they cover and also plan out future stories – with sources and content – weeks in advance. A true 2-way platform that starts with the journalists’ needs and then teaches PR pros how to give it to them, when they need it, how they need it. So rather than blindly sending the same pitch to 100’s a blind list of recipients, when YouTube Vloggers want links, bloggers want tons of images and the print press want copy. PR today demands real-time, personalized follow up, and we need a platform that enables that speed of interaction.

If we can’t do that, we’ll see not only a further erosion of our media relationships, but a rise in the already astronomical churn levels on account teams and in PR departments. PR Daily reported that our industry saw a 55% turnover rate in 2013. And unhappy employees lead to unhappy clients and executives. According to the Bedford Group, client/agency tenure has shrunk from more than seven years to less than three years. 

In PR, we serve two masters: 1. the reporters and bloggers and 2. the clients or executives who invest our efforts.  For the latter, we need to show the fruits of our efforts – the hits, but also reporter interest in downloads, feedback, conversations and the means to analyze and report on those interactions. In the 21st century PR world, our clients – internal or external – will demand total transparency, not to mention a solid ROI on that investment.

It’s time that PR ceases to be a black box equation of retainer dollars in, questionable billable hours out.  We need an integrated social newsroom network, by PR people for PR people, and for the reporters we serve. Let’s get out of the inbox and the Twitter feeds that were never designed for this purpose and take the conversation into this century, where it belongs.

Hannah Oiknine is the CEO & Co-Founder of Babbler, the first real-time media relations platform for the digital age. Used by more than 250 brands and 30+ agencies worldwide, Babbler is the only opt-in network that lets media and PR pros instantly share news, content and messages in a single platform.

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Hannah Oiknine

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