I’ve decided to do this for some PR people. For free. Today, yes, today alone I had three very close encounters of the annoying kind with PR people. 

And in case you think I don’t like PR people or respect your profession, you’d be very much mistaken. Some of my dearest friends are PR practitioners, that I’ve known forever.

And I did it for more than 20 years. 
Occasionally I think about going back into the real world and getting a real job but the idea of doing PR scares me. 
There’s a good chance I’m out of touch with the decision makers in the media industry as well as the relevant writers, producers, editors, journalists etc and to be honest, I think I’ve lost ‘the knack’ needed to be a good PR person. 

So this isn’t a dig. It’s more of a public service and to make sure it doesn’t reek of my grumpiness I’ve decided I’m going to ask a few of my friends in the industry for a tip or two. However in the meantime, here are a few of my do’s and don’ts when it comes to PR and media, or in my case, bloggers. 
1. Do know your blogger – 
please don’t send me releases on breast feeding pumps, newborn nappies, baby formula or anything else to do with babies. If you read my blog or my tweets you’d realise both of my children aren’t breast feeding, nor are they in newborn nappies. 
Today a few of my friends received a press release on weight loss. None of them have mentioned wanting to or needing to lose a few inches. But dear PR company, you’ve just lost yourself a blogger or two 
2. Don’t let me be a number –
Send me a personalized mail, starting with ‘Hi Melinda’. Mention my children, ask how I am. If you really want to impress me add how much you loved reading my most recent blog post. Even if it’s bullsh@t I’ll like you a whole lot more
3. Do make me feel special –
You want me to review a product? Send me the product to try out for a week or two. Let me decide if I like it or not. Let me know that I’m one of a selected few. Again even if it’s crap, it’ll make me like you more. If it’s something for my kids mention them by name. Say something like:
“Hi Melinda 
We think Ben and Emma are going to love this little gadget. It’s great for girls for xxxx reasons and little boys will love xxxx features”
Let me know you ‘know’ me. Even just a little. 
I used to do PR for concerts and shows. And every now and then, if I had spare tickets, I’d offer them to a journalist. Not for a review but to stay thank you. If there was a meet and greet opportunity I’d offer it to someone who I knew had children who loved the group, character or singer. In PR it’s the little things that count ****
4. Don’t harass me –
Your email often ends with ‘please contact us should you need more information or images’. It doesn’t read ‘please note I’ll continue to phone and mail you until you write something about this product that has absolutely nothing to do with you’. If I want to write about it I will. It really is a case of don’t call me, I’ll call you
5. Don’t give me FOMO – 
The parallel universe of social media is small. Don’t have an event with a hashtag and tweets by the dozen and three days later send me a press release with images to write about an event/product/launch I wasn’t invited to. Why would I?
6. Don’t only contact me when you need something – 
A while back an influential tweeter mentioned that his pet was ill. An astute and on the ball PR company saw this and immediately sent him and his pet a ‘get well soon’ gift. He tweeted and blogged about it because he appreciated it. I’m not saying you need to ‘buy me but send me a mail every now and then to say ‘hi’. If I tweet or write a blog post about my kid’s upcoming birthday, send them a card.
*** I used to do PR for concerts and shows. And every now and then, if I had spare tickets, I’d offer them to a journalist. Not for a review but to stay thank you. If there was a meet and greet opportunity I’d offer it to someone who I knew had children who loved the group, character or singer. In PR it’s the little things that count ****
7. Do get to know me – 
Oops. Might have mentioned that before but PR is all about relationships. Build and manage them. Maintain and nurture them. That way you won’t need to ‘suggest’ I use your press release. And if you’re sending me information on something that’s relevant to me and my readers, because you know me, you won’t need to bug me
8. Don’t spray and pray – 
Even when I did PR a million years ago we snubbed those PR peeps who sprayed and prayed. Sending out a generic mail to 100 journalists and hoping that five write about it didn’t work then and definitely doesn’t work now
9. Do let me keep my credibility while keeping yours – 
Credibility for a PR person is non negotiable. So is credibility for a blogger, as far as I’m concerned. 
In my entire career as a publicist I never worked on an account or with a product I didn’t believe in. I once left an interview half way through when I found out it was for a casino. Not rudely let me add, because another key rule in PR is to not burn your bridges. I can’t, with conviction, ‘sell’ something I don’t believe in. I also won’t write about something I can’t personally recommend. 
‘Crying wolf’ in PR, where every event is brilliant and every product a must-have, slowly erodes your credibility and there’ll come a time no one will believe a word you say. I once wrote a mail to a journalist saying something along the lines of “I’d love for you to review xxx show but I know you’ll hate it. Would you mind extending the invite to xxx because I know he/she enjoys xxx”.
Possibly a huge no no to some but because I knew both journalists and had spent years building a relationship with them I could send such a mail, keeping my credibility and getting the coverage I needed 
10. Don’t underestimate my value –
Like any media platform, my blog has value. It must have if you’re targeting me with umpteen releases a day. You wouldn’t send a print ad to a magazine and ‘suggest’ they run it for free. Nor would you ask a radio station to run a commercial without paying for it. Surely you don’t work for free? You bill for your time, by the hour. We know time is money. It takes time to write a review, at least a decent one, so why do you expect me to do it for free? 
You’ll pay an influencer a (ludicrous) fee to tweet about your product in 140 characters but I must write a 500 word review…because you asked me to in a generic email. I don’t think so.
I’ve probably left out a few tips that’ll make your life a little easier but I’m hoping these basic principles will help. And yes, I did it for free.

6 thoughts on “PR 101 for dummies. And for PR people

  1. Bloody well said!
    I couldn't agree more.
    Yesterday was my day for being bombarded with PR emails too. I got a breast feeding one…. REALLY? If you knew me at all, from my BIO, you'd know my children are adopted and breast feeding not an option.
    I got one for a slimming product…. Again… REALLY? Did you read my BIO? And you think I'll use my reputation to endorse a product I've publicly stated I'm against?
    I love (some) PR mail drops, the interesting ones that engage with me, that are targeted to me and the ones that are within the ethos of my blog.

  2. Okay so I am going to throw a spanner in the works here – sure I get the irritation – I live it daily. But I realise that I get many things that don't interest me but perhaps may interest my readers – I think PR people just target blogs they way they do traditional media. IE: Lemme send what I think your audience will enjoy, not necessarily you. Not saying it's right and I agree with your blog – but just offering a perspective as to why it's so wrong.

  3. Thanks for this. I also think sometimes even though you think it isn't your interest it lands up being interesting. Eg I am past sterilising things but I enjoyed the Milton launch and learnt a lot. And got lots of free dummy sterilisers out of it to promote. Also, I'm not a fashion blogger but I went to an event and got some nice clothes. Obviously there are some things I just won't go for, but I try and keep an open mind. I agree what you said about relationship building.

  4. I cannot commend you enough for this post. I have a 9 year old…and it's funny because I actually have received more nappies as “gifts” in the past 3 years than ever before. Nappies? For my kid? (also, how did they get my address when I have not given it to those companies?) I've donated them to a children's home as they've come in but, honestly, it irks me. Then there's the press releases about breastfeeding (which I did for 3 weeks, in 2005) and – my best ever was…”Dear Cath, now that your baby is starting the exciting life of solid food…” the DAY she was starting primary school.

    It's not hard to do a little research on people you send things to. It's really not.

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