A Pitch for Relevance
A few years ago, I wrote an article about how diminishing staff numbers at traditional media outlets were opening the doors for PR professionals to help fill the void. This, of course, requires thinking like an editor and offering content that, while based on client information, is truly of interest to readers or viewers.
At the time, I also cautioned that "... since 'impersonating' a reporter also requires writing in the same objective style, one has to resist the urge to work the client's name into the feature 50 times or make subjective claims like 'the best in the area.' Of course that’s common sense, but I have had editors preemptively tell me that the feature I'm submitting 'would need to be a balanced story, not slanted toward any particular position.'"
If there's anything that social media has taught us the last few years it’s that consumers are conditioned to receiving relevant content on their own terms. They are not even remotely interested in editorial that overly promotes an organization or product. Print and TV assignment editors obviously know this as well and will steer clear of PR pros and organizations who fail to put it into practice.
And while I believe most in the PR field are very conscientious in this regard, it is also up to us to convince our clients of this reality. From their perspective, I fully understand the temptation to want to maximize media opportunities to their fullest. What's more, there may be political factors or pressures from many different internal divisions trying to add their two cents. It's not unlike being the webmaster of an organizations’ website where everyone requests high priority representation on the main page. However, there needs to be someone willing to step up and view things from the perspective of the audience they’re targeting.
Lacking this objective leadership, one runs the risk of not only being rejected by the respective media outlets being courted, but creating longer-term strains in these relationships as well. Failing to submit a feature or story idea that is not with the best interest of the readers or viewers in mind can permanently kick you out of the short list that editors turn to when needing future content.
This loss of trust can be difficult to quickly gain back – both for the organization as well as the PR pro individually. And it doesn’t matter if you were only following client 'orders.' Editors could care less. All they know is that the overly hyped, irrelevant content came from your e-mail account.
So the next time you are asked to submit something you feel you wouldn’t want to read yourself as a consumer, for the sake of all involved,
do your best to communicate to your client why making a big issue of a non-issue may not be a good idea. They may not always agree with your advice, but you can rest assured knowing that you are only protecting them, and yourself, from being excluded the next time a truly newsworthy opportunity comes along.
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