Getting a handle on PR

If your job was relating your clients to the public you’d think that you’d be all over the newest uses of the Internet. Some of my recent experience suggests not. Like every other industry, Public Relations professionals are resistant, or even oblivious to, the way the Internet radically alters how you can and should spread your message. This article isn’t about those PR professionals.

Fundamental to most PR agencies’ ways of looking at the world is that there are gatekeepers in the major and minor media, and it is their job to present their clients’ ideas in a style and form that optimise the chances of those gatekeepers giving them favourable treatment.

The building block of just about all PR campaigns will be the media release. This is a document historically aimed at print journalists which seeks to take the hard work out of writing an article by providing them with an article equivalent. When you write a media release there is no greater compliment that you seek than to see it reproduced by your target in tacta.

But producing the perfect media release is more than successfully ghost writing the journalist’s article. Because of the blizzard of media releases that hit most journalist’s desks, it also depends on striking-up a relationship of trust with your target. Which is why writing the perfect media release is only part of the story. It’s an important technical part, but perhaps the most important role of a good PR agent is social. They lend their reputation to the story so that it gets seen in the first place.

Which makes Handle your own PR an interesting experiment. It’s an idea created by Jules Brook and Simone Heydon which gives DIY publicists the tools to do some of the PR expert’s job. (Jules and Simone also run Handle Communications).

In some ways it is an up-dated version of Margaret Gee’s Media Guide, which was a book and then a CD that you could subscribe to which listed every journalist (25,000 according to the blurb) in Australia. You can still buy Gee’s guide, but it is expensive. Handle your own PR makes similar information available per list along with some tips on how to do your own PR, and a solicitation of your business if you decide, despite all the help, that you really need a professional.

In most cases you’re going to need a professional to do it properly, so it should be commercially successful for the ladies.

However, while it is an innovative way of using the Internet to do business, to some extent it misses the mark. In the new online world power has shifted from the gatekeepers to the audience. One way of getting a gatekeeper’s attention is to be nice to them. Another is to be so big that they just can’t afford to miss you. Or use a strategy to bypass them all together.

In some respects On Line Opinion performs a PR function for its writers. Media releases are creatures of the moment – there one moment and relegated to trash the next – but a good online article or blog post can go on forever. By taking the ghost writing aspect of the media release one-step further and making the release a real attributed article the promoter of products or ideas can stand-out so that the journalist has to take note. Better still, they can often bypass the journalist all together and get straight to the audience.

We know that media scan OLO for story ideas because we get emails from academics about how they publish in academic journals to be read by no-one, yet when they publish in On Line Opinion they’re knocking-back media interviews.

We also hear stories from writers pleased that blocks of their articles have been plagiarised by politicians and other people of power or influence, or quoted back to them by colleagues.

On Line Opinion functions as an aggregator of good quality content, and I wonder whether Handle your own PR couldn’t look at offering an aggregator service in their product area which would supercharge their PR offering.

But with Google, as long as you have your own Internet publishing platform, you can build your own PR aggregator, which is more or less what this blog is about – build it and they will find it.

Ultimately web design isn’t just web design, it’s PR too.

Leave a Reply