Monday, June 27, 2016

Don't be Steve: relationships in PR

Public relations is often about building relationships. Some smart PR people get this. Others don't. For example:

"I know you're the special kind of person who wants to help other people."

I'm not sure if Steve Harrison really knows that. Or knows much about public relations, beyond providing all sorts of advice on how to get the attention of TV segment booking producers. That's what he sells on his website.

What I do know about Steve Harrison: he hasn't Clue One about respecting his potential customers. The five come-on emails he sent me over a two-hour period told me all I need to know about Steve's mastery of public relations. (I signed up for a webinar, recommended by a colleague. Not spam that rivals the barrage I got from FTD around Mother's Day.)

In a five-day span: 10 emails from Steve. Each as relentless and self-promoting as the last.

A TV studio control room.
By Wing1990hk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
I follow a few rules about public relations. Near the top: respecting the beleaguered editors, producers, and bloggers whose in-boxes are in the cross-hairs of every PR person looking to promote a product, service, or website. I'm not certain Steve's ever sat on their side of the assignment desk. But given the hay bale's worth of pitches he dropped on me last Monday, I'm betting he's pure pitch, and not too considerate of the hectic newsrooms most media gatekeepers must manager.

I told him as much, in a succinct email:

"The first rule of public relations is to earn the audience's trust. I've found that editors trust me, because I respect them -- and I don't carpet-bomb their email in-boxes.

"Four email blasts within one hour (from you) shows that you don't respect my time -- and may have trouble getting a message down to one new idea.

"Please be considerate of your audiences. I'm more likely to respond positively."

When I sent him these thoughts, I received an automated response:

"Hi ... Steve Harrison here.

"Thanks for emailing me.

"Unfortunately, due to the volume of email I receive I'm unable to respond to it all. A member of my staff does read all email and will respond if necessary.

"If you are writing about a replay of a call or webinar: I generally do not offer replays of these but on the rare occasion that I do rebroadcast one, you will receive an email inviting you if you are on my mailing list.

"If you are seeking more information about me and the various programs and classes we offer, the best place to start is my website..."

Steve's an "ABP" type of guy. Always Be Pitching. The sort of PR person who has no ability to listen.

But I'm not sharing Steve's website address. You can find it with ease, but I won't expend one electron plugging the website of someone with such disregard for my time, or for building relationships. 

That's not how PR works, Steve. Perhaps you need a refresher. If you are seeking more information about me and the various programs and classes we offer, the best place to start is my university's website. Because you have much to learn about building relationships.