Want To Be A Great PR And Marketing Professional? Be A Human Being
Running a great tech PR agency is grueling, but it isn’t art. It isn’t rocket science. Hell, I’d argue it’s not scientific at all, unless you call the gastrointestinal reaction that my body has to diet coke “science.” That’s why whenever I read PR people’s failed, slightly psychotic attempts to analyze how to talk to reporters, I throw my hands in the air. The article in question from Muckrack details, at length, how a PR study I’m not going to link to analyzed over 300 responses to emails from journalists, and is written with the cadence and curiosity of a neural network fed the names of a thousand brands.
Truly insanely obvious facts came from this study – that you got a positive response when you actually gave someone something they liked, and didn’t when you didn’t. “Unsurprisingly, the most positive type of feedback my team received were compliments on our work. This makes sense: publishers who immediately approve of our content are typically forward with their praise.” Thank you, PR study person, for telling me that people are happy when you do stuff they like.
I won’t go line by line, but the thing that made me roll my eyes the hardest was “…from this, we can observe that when pitching content, PR pros should have a deep sense of what the editorial process is like for each publisher.” Yes, learning what the reporter’s work is like is how you make them happy. Jesus CHRIST.
Something that has always confused me about public relations professionals is their complete lack of self awareness. There are dozens of similar posts to this one – such as Muckrack’s “two main reasons PR people annoy journalists” which instead of two blunt points includes two run-on sentences much like this one. God damnit.
You know what? Do you want to know how to be good at this job? Be a damn human being.
Want someone to like you? Read their damn work
I don’t care if you’re pitching a reporter, trying to be a growth hacker, trying to get new clients or trying to get a client to stop hating you. If you want to succeed in this job, you’re going to have to learn about the person in question and have a conversation that’s based on an informed understanding of their life. In the case of a reporter, a public relations professional should be able to say more than “I really liked this article!” They should have read a lot of the reporter’s work and said “hey, this reporter’s good, this pitch fits them, and it’s justified based on the things I’ve actually read.”
I realize a public relations and marketing person can be seen as the lowest form of life, below the humble cockroach and the snail. But imagine yourself in their shoes – wouldn’t you want someone who’s asking you to do something for them to know about you? To understand and appreciate you? It’s so obvious!
Public relations and marketing success stories come from actual human connections
Watching PR people try and talk to reporters on Twitter is painful. You watch them desperately try and make jokes, or try and say “wow, great article!” Most “how to make a relationship” PR posts say to read their work, to talk to them where they like to be talked to, and to share their work on Twitter. The reason this often doesn’t work is because you need to actually try and get to know them. This doesn’t need to be encyclopedic, nor does this mean you even have to meet them. It means you have to read their articles, their feed, and if you do meet them you have to talk to them not about your clients. You have to be able to discuss something other than your clients, and something other than your immediate workspace.
You have to be a semi-interesting and well-rounded person with an actual personality
If you’re a person that can only talk about your industry and your work, you’re likely dull as hell! A lot of PR people feel like they’re printed from the same boring fax machine, sent to this world to have the same asinine platitudes about doggos and puppers, or how they love running or something. Most reporters consider PR people a homogenous lump because they actually are. If your only experience – professionally and personally – leads you to be only able to talk about your clients, their industry, and whatever has happened to you at work, you’re likely a very big boring person that nobody wants to talk to. This means that you may have to open a book that’s not related to work, or learn an instrument, or broaden your horizons beyond what everyone you know likes.
I’m going to, at some point, write a series about how to make the average PR and marketing person more interesting. Maybe I’ll start tomorrow.
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