Peter Shankman recently told the story of how lazy/dumb/thoughtless PR types can be when he forwards a journalist request and gets mostly lame and irrelevant replies. His conclusion:
Is this what the agencies are teaching their employees to do?
If it is, reporters have every right to hate public relations professionals.
We’re not doing our job.
At best, we’re an industry that relies on hope, and not skill, on the off chance that we’ll catch a break.
We’ve become an industry of posers, hoping that we’ll get through another day without being exposed as a fraud.
Peter’s response to this industry-wide problem was to set up a Facebook group. Now that’s gotten too large he’s set up a website and list, to which PR and industry types can subscribe. Peter will post journalist queries to the list. He tags on an excellent proviso:
By joining this list, just promise me and yourself that you’ll ask yourself before you send a response: Is this response really on target? Is this response really going to help the journalist, or is this just a BS way for me to get my client in front of the reporter? If you have to think for more than three seconds, chances are, you shouldn’t send the response.
It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out. Sadly, I suspect many PR types don’t really care about relevance or blowing it with a reporter by making an irrelevant pitch; they just want to be able to add another number to their report. As Phil Gomes of Edelman points out, ProfNet owns this field but their usefulness has dropped off in recent years. There’s plenty of room for more and better players.
(Vaguely related vent: I got another one of those emails with a subject line “May I call you on this?” this morning. How useful is that? Does it give me any idea of whether it’s relevant and interesting to me? That I now have to read the contents of the email to get a clue isn’t going to endear me to you. That you are so keen to phone me tells me you’re a high maintenance PR contact I don’t want to waste time with. I take great joy in sending an empty email with the subject line “No” to these emails. And I add their domain to my “PR spam” filter. I know, it’s harsh, but life’s too short.)