Be the blacksheep

December 2, 2009 at 12:23 pm 5 comments

In my last post, I mentioned the practice of bad PR. But what is the difference between good and bad PR?

Here’s my perspective:

Bad PR doesn’t focus on its publics. Nor does it keep the media in mind. Instead, it’s all about the money; especially the money in the client’s pocket. Am I starting to sound like Jerry McGuire yet?

Showing them the money is fine, hell, it’s expected. And don’t get me wrong, it would be an understatement to say that focusing on your clients is a huge aspect of the PR function.

However, it is too often that “bad” PR pros pump out news release after news release, media kit after media kit, pitch after pitch in order to show their clients the “value” of PR. In other words, they just want something tangible to show. But is the value of PR really in the quantity of delivered messages?

In order to be quality PR practitioners, we must produce quality messages. This means our messages cannot just be delivered, they must be received. To do this, we must go back to the basic principles of PR and remind ourselves of our true function: not only serving as an advocate to the client, but as a resource and aid to the media.

  • Take the time to learn the function of the media and their wants and needs.  Learn their beat, learn their target audience, hell, even learn their name.
  • Treat members of the media like the human beings they are, instead of objectifying them as a “tool,” “channel” or “outlet” for your message.
  • Develop trust and relationships with members of the media. Be a family, even if you start out as the black sheep.

PR pros must also be the “mom” of the client/media family: we need to be the glue that holds everyone together. This means not neglecting or abusing members of that family.

In my opinion, not knowing everything about your reporters, bloggers, etc can be just as detrimental as not knowing everything about your client. Doing the research, working hard and showing respect is what will distinguish the good from the bad from the just-plain-ugly.

After all, clients don’t become rockstars overnight. We need the media to help our clients become rockstars. And we hope that when we get our act together , they will realize they need us too.

What do you consider to be bad PR?


Entry filed under: PR Ponderings. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Allan Schoenberg  |  December 2, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    The best PR people take the time to understand what it is their client wants/needs and build a program and measurement around that. Once you figure that out the rest become easier — note that I didn’t say easy. Asking good, investigative questions of your client is what the best practitioners do. If your client wants you to “pump out” releases, and you do it and do it well, then you are meeting their needs (if you are convinced that’s the right thing they should be doing).

    • 2. mikepilarz  |  December 3, 2009 at 3:40 pm

      ..”if you are convinced that’s the right thing they should be doing.”

      Very important point. There’s often a huge – and critical – difference between giving a client exactly what they want and exactly what they need. It’s our job to make a case for the latter.

  • 3. Twitted by odwyerpr  |  December 3, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    […] This post was Twitted by odwyerpr […]

  • 4. Rebecca Markarian  |  December 3, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    So, so true. Johna Burke from Burrelles and I did a presentation about media relations at the PRSA Conference in San Diego and we talked about all of the points you make. We have to think like the media – more than even just knowing their name and their beat. Know what makes a story successful for them – what do they want to accomplish? If you can find that out and help them be superstars at the same time you communicate your clients’ story then you’ve hit the PR gold mine! 🙂

    If you’re at all interested, you can see our presentation decks on slideshare: Johna’s presentation was full of great resources to help you do some of that homework too.

  • 5. Mitch McDonald  |  December 5, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    “What do you consider to be bad PR?”

    This may be an oversimplification, but I believe a lack of transparency within the message. If a PR message gives no substantial information, it often appears manufactured and self-serving. While I’m hardly an expert in PR, it’s easy to notice those characteristics, which too easily distract from the message’s substance.


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