PR Isn’t The Enemy

SurrenderOnce again, the last couple of weeks have seen the public relations industry dragged through the mud by a high-profile blogger. This time it was Robert Scoble, first via Blog Talk Radio then again on his own blog. Naturally plenty of other people piled-on, although few were even remotely constructive.

I could go through Scoble’s anti-PR rant line by line, picking his argument apart (and I nearly did), but to do that would be to miss the point of what he’s getting at. 

The public relations industry is plagued by people who spam journalists and bloggers, and play the numbers game in an attempt to generate media coverage.

Is it the norm? I hope not. I’d like to think not. Regardless, it happens and it’s painful – both to the recipients of the spam pitches and to honest practitioners like Shel, Todd and myself.

I’m not going to disagree with Robert. The PR industry does have its share of bottom-of-the-barrel practitioners. Sad but true – every industry does. Unfortunately, the media/blogger outreach side of PR (yes, dear people, there are other sides) involves interacting with the people who have an audience, so these people are highly visible.

Here’s where I agree with Scoble about media and blogger outreach:

  • PR people should find out what journalists are interested in before pitching them.
  • PR people should find out how journalists like to be pitched (and, yes, sometimes that may involve emailing them to ask).
  • PR people should tailor their approaches to people. That includes the medium they use to approach them.

I could get defensive about Scoble’s rant (and for a while I did – hence I’m coming to this late). However, the fact is that there are many bad PR people out there. I see them every day in my inbox, and if you have any kind of following on your blog then the chances are you do too.

The reality is, though, that PR isn’t the enemy. Bad PR is the enemy.

Unfortunately, there’s not too much we can do about them (which isn’t to imply that we shouldn’t try). The fact is, they’re unlikely to be the ones attending IABC, CPRS or PRSA training sessions. They’re not the ones reading the rants against them on Scoble’s site. And they’re probably not the ones reading this post. They’re busy building their next mass mailing for a client who, unfortunately, doesn’t know any better.

The rest of us – the ones with a conscience, who do their best to target their approaches to the people who will thank them for their pitches? We’re left to raise our hands, point out that we’re not all black sheep, do our best to educate others and then go back to doing good work for our clients.

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.