PR Isn’t About Relationships, PR Is About Building Relationships

Time and time again, when I tell people that I’m in public relations and digital marketing I hear the same questions being asked – “Well since PR is so relationship based, how can a startup get noticed without having contacts in the media?”

My response is almost always the same, and it’s not what people think.

PR isn’t what it used to be. Ten and fifteen years ago the creators of content were thought of as royalty. Especially in tech. PR Managers with the most connections got the best results and made the best living. 15 years ago, a news article was something that had to be earned through years of relationship building and carefully thought out pitches. These were the glory days of PR. Unfortunately, the glory days of PR are over. Competition in the media has grown stronger, and margins for publishers have grown smaller. Today, reporters at many news sources make a living by hitting benchmarks, securing x amount of article views, and driving y amount of traffic to a parent site. In order to hit these benchmarks, reporters and journalists must produce the content that drives these results.

Because the current success of many reporters is driven by the results they secure, relationships come secondary to something else – the quality and content of the piece they are writing.

What this means is that reporters are becoming more and more specialized.

Because of specialization in media, it’s becoming more and more difficult for a publicist to know the right people for every story.

So, you might ask – “Well then, since reporters today are focused on providing great content, how does someone peek the interest of a reporter without having a prior relationship?”

The answer is simple – introduce yourself and give a reporter a story that will get them results. Think give, not take. Don’t send out email blasts, send quality content to the right people.

Put yourselves in the shoes of a reporter who covers crowdfunding campaigns on consumer gadgets, the opportunity to cover a recent Kickstarter launch of a IOT product will be more attractive than the opportunity to cover a new product launch for a AI software company.

Executing on a great PR campaign really comes down to putting a compelling story in front of the right reporter.

This strategy helped my previous company secure over 200 high quality articles on a consumer electronics client, driving over a million website visits to their site in a single day. We had no prior relationship with 99% of the reporters we contacted, but we had reporters actually thank us for the great story.

Again, what it came down to was simply putting the right story in front of the right reporter.

Every reporter has a niche. If a reporter gets an email from someone they have never met about covering a story that will significantly relate to their audience – odds are that they will choose to write a story on that before covering a story pitched by an acquaintance on a product outside of their expertise.

This aside, a company is most likely to be featured in the news when they pitch someone they know personally on a product that is a perfect fit for the reporter they are reaching out to. Which means that relationships are still huge in PR.

Because relationships often impact what a reporter writes about, if a reporter does decide to cover you, be sure to be thankful. They are doing you a favor by writing a story on your client, regardless of whether they love the story or not.

Most people in PR don’t have a black book with a network of reporters in every possible niche. Today, the job of any the PR professional is to build relationships with the reporters most likely to cover their clients. When done successfully, the results can be substantial.

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