Monday, April 27, 2015

Earning your PR stripes

I don't know how a startup PR company can claim to have 330,000 media contacts. Email addresses, sure. But I've been doing PR for more than 30 years, and I'd be stretched to say I actually know 10,000 media contacts.

You need to earn those relationships, not merely collect a list of email addresses and shepherd them via software. That's what Cision does.

By AndrĂ© Karwath aka Aka (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5
via Wikimedia Commons
But, when an ambitious company called PR Zebra tweeted me and asked for "support" for their concierge-style PR business, I checked out their website, not just their crowd-sourcing link. They promise you local, regional, and national coverage. And they've posted a few news releases, often for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

They offer a three-tiered pricing strategy that's relatively affordable. Like a lawn service.

Nothing wrong with this approach, as a business model. But read their material, and you soon realize they seem more enamored with their business model than building readability. A few observations:

1) You get what you pay for. The news releases feel like they're copying a faux news style, written by someone who has minimal journalistic background. You'll find awkward phrasing, misspellings, and cliches. Those traits don't impress news editors.

2) Anyone who promises you "coverage" had better own a TV station or newspaper. PR people can't promise coverage. We can help tell your story persuasively, and get it in front of media decision-makers and bloggers. That's who decides whether to cover the story.

3) Why would I "support" a PR purveyor with an endorsement on social media, unless we'd worked together? LinkedIn endorsements are one thing (and somewhat questionable). But extending my reputation for PR Zebra's marketing is a fool's errand. Had we collaborated, I might have some positive things to say.

As with other alternative PR distribution services, PR Zebra may find a niche, serving clients who think PR can be done on a scale akin to a monthly lawn service. 

But I think clients prefer a strategic approach, and a relationship with their PR provider. And quality writing that's strong enough to persuade an editor or news producer to follow up with a published story. Not promises of coverage. And not cups of coffee consumed.