Monday, July 16, 2007

Aiming Low. . .and Hitting Every Time

Of all the errors a PR person can commit there is one unforgivable sin: Laziness.

Laziness surfaces in all kinds of ways: lack of creativity; going to the same reliable news sources for a hit time after time; fear of taking a story up-stream into national media; writing in technical gibberish without bothering to explain the story in easily-comprehensible language, and so on and so forth.

Today I'll concentrate on what I consider Cardinal Sin #1: "going to the same sources" time and again.

An old friend of mine heads up the PR department for a large software company. Recently he circulated a trade press article of his "top" PR staffers had placed. It was an excellent piece, and he rightly took pride in the achievement, & thus was allowed to "crow" a little. All the same, as I read the story and her note, I had just one thought:

"And this is as far as it'll go."

A glance at the "In the News" section of this company's web site reveals a truth common to far too many companies in the tech and telecom space: They seem to be covered by only two or three reporters. List of "hits" written by the same reporters from the same low-circulation trade publications go on month-after-month, quarter-after-quarter, year-after-year. Perusing this kind of coverage, you get the impression that the PR person only knows three people in the media. The truth is the PR person is just doing the safe thing. He or she has to show results. What's the easiest way to do that? -- Go to the same reporters every time.

When you aim low, you're always going to hit the mark.

This is not to say that trade press are "low," but rather that they're just one media vehicle. PR people who rely on them solely are. . .lazy.

Getting back to my friend, I know that his company faces some tough policy challenges in the months ahead. It so happens they have a great story to tell. Hopefully someone high up in the organization will put his/her boot up that "top" PR staffer's arse, and soon. The jolt might make him aim higher. . .to places like the Wall Street Journal, USA Today or The New York Times.

PR is like sales. The worst thing that can happen is that the prospect will so say "No thanks." But if you never ask, you're missing out on the chance to hear that wonderful "Yes!" response.

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