February 28, 2010

Five kinds of public relations

I comment about public relations from two different standpoints:

Sometimes these discussions are very fruitful. But other times they are “Head, meet brick wall.” Perhaps this post will help.

This post actually started as a set of specific tips, the biggest of which is uncouple your PR from your press releases. I’ll put the others below — but first, I’d like to cover a little theory.

There are (at least) five different things you can try to do via public relations:

In my capacity as a target of PR, I can tell you that clumsy or excessive “selling” of stories creates a backlash. There are a number of us who are LESS likely to write favorably about companies that waste our attention and time pitching inconsequential stories. You may get ignored (especially in the traditional press or if you’re a larger company). You may get mocked (especially in blogs and if you’re a smaller outfit). Either way, you probably won’t be happy about the result.

In my capacity as a consultant, I can tell you why you should have realized this all along — unless carefully managed, most salespeople will burn their employer’s long-term interests in order to show short-term results. Outside PR agencies on short-term contracts are particularly guilty of this. What’s more, when they are honorable or astute enough to push back against unrealistic management expectations — as is fairly often the case, or at least so they claim — outside PR folks are commonly ordered to produce-or-else nonetheless. The consequences of such bullheadedness are sad.

One of the top trade press reporters covering enterprise technology keeps telling me that he fears for our country if people seriously think that the trivialities he’s hard-pitched are news. Less hyperbolically, he’s given me names of VERY big companies who get less coverage from him than they would if they sent fewer lame press releases. And when he gives me examples of what he hates, I generally agree, except in cases when I can tell him that a terribly-written press release has obscured what is actually an interesting announcement.

A great selling-style PR person can be invaluable, just as a great salesperson is. Those are the ones who know a few target “customers” really well, who are trusted by those “customers,” and/or who know how to listen to what the “customers'” preferences or needs are. Some people like that can be found inside companies.* But they’re almost nonexistent at agencies these days, at least among those folks who pitch me.

*See, for example, Dian Terry’s organization at Teradata. Ditto Rita Shoor, who despite technically being independent might as well have been an Intersystems employee for the past decade-plus.

If most pure “selling” is bad, then what should you do in PR? The answer is “market”. This post will be long enough without me trying to distinguish among the various kinds of marketing — awareness-building, positioning, competitive de-positioning, lead generation, and so on. But I would like to at least point out that there are different categories of people to market to.

In an earlier post, I distinguished among eight different kinds of influencers. For the purpose of this one, it should suffice to highlight three different categories of PR-centric marketing:

With all that as background, let me now turn to the specific tips that started this all off.

To reach the latter group, the right model is something that’s at least quasi-personal, quasi-straightforward, and quasi-in-depth. In other words, it’s a lot like a blog — or else like a series of truly personal email correspondences. But, given how long this has already become, that’s a subject for another post.

*There actually are a couple of vendors who drown me in press releases without pissing me off. Why? Because those press releases have instantly comprehensible headlines and topic paragraphs. (Typically they’re user success stories without breathless fluff.) I know what I’m ignoring, without having any work to do to ignore it. 🙂 The reason I mentioned Rita Shoor’s work for Intersystems above is that she’s great at that kind of thing. (Look around my blogs; you’ll see that it’s really rare that I write a story like this one that Rita induced.)

Related links

In some cases subsequent to when I made this post, I’ve written up various examples of how not to do PR.


8 Responses to “Five kinds of public relations”

  1. What not to do with PR | IP Marketing Advisor on March 30th, 2010 10:13 am

    […] Source: Strategic Messaging […]

  2. Often the best press release is the one you DON’T issue | Strategic Messaging on April 1st, 2010 8:19 am

    […] my recent taxonomy of five kinds of PR — which of the following goals is advanced by issuing a press release about an utterly […]

  3. Marketing communication essentials | Strategic Messaging on July 3rd, 2012 8:56 pm

    […] Supervise your PR very closely. Do much of it yourself. Indeed, strongly consider doing without a PR firm altogether. […]

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    […] Our comprehensive post on PR theory and tips […]

  5. Marketing advice for young companies | Strategic Messaging on September 18th, 2015 5:43 am

    […] are at least five major kinds of PR and three kinds of PR-centric marketing. (February, […]

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    […] 2010 survey of PR options provides some of the reasoning behind this […]

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