Sending a press release to a reporter is a far different activity than blasting a million messages about generic viagra, right? Of course it is, but as media relations starts to veer out of the professional into the amateur realm and our public relations plans branch out to include civilians who are less inured to the constant barrage of press releases, it has become apparent that we need to take another hard look at how we communicate.
When a blogger ends up in a Cision or Vocus database, they will inevitably start receiving press releases from PR people. Likewise if they attend a conference as “press,” they will end up on the conference media list. I think this is something that would be completely expected (if irritating) to a veteran reporter, but I think it’s easy to miss the fact that many of these bloggers might be utterly confused when they start receiving press releases and pitches, seemingly out of the blue.
Somehow, and I’m just guessing here, but somehow my email address ended up on a centralized mailing list for public relations firms representing the tech industry. All of a sudden I’m getting in the neighbourhood of 2 or 3 press releases directly emailed per day, all from different people at various PR agencies. This started around a week ago.
The comments that followed were mainly from other bloggers who were likewise confused as to why they were getting these, positing that these firms by lists of blogs culled from the web and one of them calling this practice “the new style of spam.”
Obviously, they don’t have all the facts about how the industry works, nor should they be expected to. All they know is that they’re getting unsolicited commercial email, and they don’t want it.
It would be easy to blame the bad PR people here, but I think that’s too easy. Certainly, the ones sending mass emails to bloggers they’ve never spoken to before is a good sign that they don’t understand social media, and probably aren’t that great with regular media either. The problem stems from the idea that a) the press release is the only way to communicate with that media, and that b) we should treat blogs like the media.
Press releases have their place. I send press releases for things like personnel and account annoucements. The things that trade magazines want to cover, but that will only ever get a couple of lines in a “by the way” sort of section. They’re also good for financial announcements and things of that sort. Notice that none of these things are the sorts of things that would show up on a blog. An online news site, perhaps, but not a blog.
In order to communicate with a non-commercial blog, you have to understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Do they ever cover commercial products? Do they post reviews? Do they talk about the kind of thing that you’re promoting? If they still seem like a good fit, a blogger has to be courted in a meaningful way. Through a program like the Nikon D80 blogger outreach or something that fits in with what they are covering.
The main thing we have to remember is that bloggers are not a part of the media industry, and as a result, they are not expecting many of the day-to-day things that reporters wouldn’t bat an eye at.
That said, pitching media with a blanket release is just as silly as pitching bloggers… it’s just less confusing for them. In all cases, your value as a PR person is about the number of relationships you have created… not about how many press releases you send.