Excuse the blunt question posed in a title. Normally public relations practitioners are more diplomatic in their phrases but I guess that’s why we suffer in the long haul. There’s just as much of sugar coating one can do. In fact, when it comes to creating a better relationship with your media and stakeholders, there’s always room for evaluation and improvement. If we can take on harsh words from our PR head honchos from our respective agencies, then it should be perfectly cool to listen to a level headed and calmer evaluation.
To be frank, we’ve overused the phrase or tagline of crossing borders into a digital world. From the countless town halls to seminars, it is perfectly understood even without this tagline, that yes the public relations industry has gone paperless from methods of outreach to even our media coverage.
Sure we’re moving towards a landscape which monetizes on websites and social media more than your traditional media outlets. But as public relation practitioners, it makes one wonder, to what extent are we embracing this digital concept? Are we only extending our media releases and announcements to digital platforms alone? Are we sharing our news via social platforms extensively? Are we reaching out to journalists through social platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, or what is it now, Snapchat?
Or are we even bothered with making that extra effort which separates us from AIs? Going out to actually put a face to a name, to actually engaging in human relations and the true traditional nature of PR which is to create new, solid and most definitely beneficial (should I say without sounding too frank) relationships.
It’s the tiny gestures from those coffee sessions to catch up and sneakily include a PR pitch you’re currently working on to networking at industry events at the end of the work day. It’s basically showing or giving the impression that you are a genuine public relations person who values the relationship and not just the coverage that comes hand in hand.
At some point it is almost like we are giving up on the traditional aspect of public relations in terms of our outreach options. Moving digital seems to be more convenient and an easier way out. Dropping an email or a Linkedin message makes your life easier, you get more work done in the office without driving to the next media house or being stuck in traffic between visits. Convenience aside, what we are really doing is committing a common mistake. A common mistake which can be seen by most PR practitioners and agencies including myself – relying too much on digital platforms to share new news releases and pitches without that personalized human touch.
PR is about fostering and harboring relationships with people. Journalists, editors, freelance content contributors are all human beings. They are not AIs which do nothing more but pop out any type of nonsense you send over to them. They are humans with their own daily routines, daily commitments and responsibilities.
Don’t look any further than yourselves. How would you like it if your friend or relative only contacts you when they need your help? Not as much as a hello or a how are you during other times. How would you feel about helping this person? Truth be told, I myself would be slightly reluctant.
This is where the traditional aspect of public relations should not be ignored entirely or completely even as we move towards embracing a digital concept. Your media list is not your personal favour granting genies. Your media list should be treated like friends (good friends of course). Socialize, step away from the computer screen and your phones, make an effort to visit your media friends, get to know them, their hobbies what makes them light up and what makes them frown. Take a genuine interest in your media companions even when you don’t have any press releases to pitch.
It’s a common mistake but it’s never too late to address it. Perhaps make it an effort for the team to organize one day to catch up with editors in two weeks or in a month. Or if your manager can’t organize it, make the effort. You are not the agency you represent for the rest of your life. If you intend on staying relevant in this industry, generating genuine relationships with your media will take you far so invest in your time to do this. Trust me, you will thank me for this as you embark on your next career outlet knowing that you bring more than just years of press release writing but also an enviable list of media friends.