Monday, May 18, 2015

Relationships or data?

I have genuine admiration for anyone who's succeeded in public relations for 30 or 40 years. My colleague Ray is one of the best.

So I read his blog on the new golden age of PR with authentic interest. Yes, the profession has a new look -- very digital, and often data-driven. 

But as I read Ray's comments, I noticed an absence of the most important word in this profession: relationships. He mentions it once, in the context of creating deeper relationships between marketers and PR professionals, and their audiences.

In an age where you can swap online analytics with anyone, I'd argue that we're not in a golden age of PR -- because relationships are dwindling. Emails and voice mails are a poor substitute for live, face-to-face conversations.

At Cedar Point, OH., "Gatekeeper" is a roller coaster.
By Jeremy Thompson from United States of America
 (Cedar Point 105  Uploaded by Themeparkgc)
via Wikimedia Commons
It's important to know the editors or news producers you're trying to reach, beyond knowing their e-mail addresses. They are the gatekeepers between your client's story and the audience. Even if you're creating a blog for your client, you need others to find it, read it, and share it. Social media-savvy journalists do that, too. Among my online friends are several editors and producers who are de facto gatekeepers.

So how do you build a relationship today?

If you get them on the phone -- and it happens, now and then -- the first thing you ask is: "Are you on deadline?" 

This shows you have a sense that they're busy, even if they aren't on deadline. It shows that you're thinking from their side of the desk, rather than just pitching your client. If you're smart, you'll listen carefully to what that editor or producer has to say, so you'll only pitch stories that meet his or her needs.

It's not easy. It takes time. But if you deliver what you promise, when an editor needs it, you're building a relationship that no Google Analytics traffic report can provide. And, if you're ever in a tight editorial spot, there's a chance you could reach out to that media person and ask: "What do you think?"

Yes, Ray's right about integrated marketing communications. Connecting actions with analytics is wise. But we can't skip building relationships -- with clients, colleagues, and any media professional. 

Because you can't buy a friend when you need one.