Friday Roast - No, Mr/Ms PR rep, I won't be writing an article about your client

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed October 30, 2015
Summary:
I have a tale for you about a PR pitch gone awry. Yeah, it's a roast, but I think we all learned something - or most of us, anyhow.

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I don't envy PR folks. My long lost days as an ERP recruiter taught me more than I ever wanted to know about the perils of the middleperson, the much-derided go-between who often adds way more than the stereotype.

It's even worse for the enterprise PR person, who must pitch cranky diva bloggers like me. And hey, it's not the PR person's fault if their client is asking them to pitch incremental, yawn-inducing updates as game-changing disruptions.

This Friday Roast is about a pitch gone wrong, but it's not a pure roast because I think everyone learned something - except perhaps the enterprise vendor itself. As a bonus, you're going to get some actual email correspondence, sanitized enough to protect the confidentiality.

One of the mudbogs joys of the bloggers' inbox is sifting through PR pitches, looking for nuggets, Our roast starts innocently enough, with a decent email from a seasoned PR person, inviting me to an online briefing on behalf of [an enterprise software vendor].

Unfortunately, the briefing wasn't going to include a customer Q/A, so I knew by accepting it I ran the risk of subjecting myself to an hour of self-infatuated techno gobbledygook. But you never know. I was on the road, so I asked to check the recording. And that's when the fun starts. The PR person kindly sent me a replay link, then added:

"I'm looking forward to reading your article."

To which I responded: "I'm not planning to write an article."

So the PR person asked me the burning question: "Why?" Pushy? Yes, but a fair ask.

My response included the following:

I don't find vendor coverage very compelling outside of on-the-ground events. I tend to do more customer profile pieces, when vendors approach me with interesting stories.

I haven't followed [vendor] closely. They canceled a meeting I set up with them at [insert enterprise show here] at the last minute, which didn't exactly make me more enthusiastic.

When I attend a vendor webinar or event, I don't attend with the expectation I will immediately be blogging. The idea is that I'm trying to learn more about the vendor, and this knowledge will become part of the context of all the things I do. If I think they are doing something neat and different, and if their customers tell me the same, I tend to write about it.

Ironically, the vendors that get the most coverage from me, outside of sending me to events, are the ones that provide me with either customer access or good information - without an expectation that I will blog. I look to form one to one relationships and eventually get unique insights and context.

Bottom line, editorial coverage from me stems from relationships, dialogue about important topics (big data, analytics), and access to executives and customers. Webinars are helpful, but don't replace those core things.

Then I hit the "send" button...

And?

I got a genuine/thoughtful response. For confidentiality, I'm not going to reprint it here.

But I can frame a few points generically:

  • This PR person agreed with my notion that customers and relationships drive good enterprise content. As he/she aptly put it, "in the realm of earned content, relationships are the only currency we can trade upon."
  • Mr./Ms. PR is stuck in the middle, with a client that is still in brand-blasting mode, mistakenly thinking their brand is so contagious it can inspire editorial out of thin air.
  • The PR firm has advised this brand to expose its customers to influencers, but to no avail. Leading to this existential PR howl: "Hence we’re at where we’re at: No customer stories to engage with, and no established relationship to trade upon." Indeed.

I know important influencers who haven't blogged at all this year. For vendors collecting article scrapbooks, these folks are not on the radar. And yet these influencers are talking to buyers all the time. Maybe it's a good idea to include them? But that wouldn't get them any more page views!!! No social shares??? Oh nooos!!!

I just hope vendors realize it's not just bloggers who seek expert content and relationships. Enterprise buyers do the exact same thing. They don't want ten half-assed articles on your new release. They want one or two great pieces, some customer use cases, and some honest feedback with people they trust (peers, influencers, and subject matter experts).

PR has a role in the world of the informed enterprise buyer. But a savvy PR exec can't front for a client that just doesn't get it.

Image credit: Barbecue Master © lassedesignen - Fotolia.com