PR is now Personal Relationships not Public Relations
Which makes a nice change from being told that ‘PR is dead’.
When I first started in PR…
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…I worked for a very small travel agency. One of our clients was a swanky 5 star hotel in Knightsbridge, and I would look on enviously as the account director swanned out of the office at least once a week to meet a journalist there for lunch. Usually there was no client present, often there was no agenda other than building or cementing a relationship.
At my next, slightly bigger, tech agency, I remember a client saying that for his first year in PR, in an in-house role, his boss had just expected him to lunch with as many journalists as possible. Which sounded like a great idea to me.
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Then I moved on to bigger agencies, finally landing at PN Towers and thought it would now be my chance to wine and dine journalists, but it wasn’t really the case and I’m not sure why. Possibly the dot.com crash meant that anything not directly related to coverage was harder to get agreement for. Publishing houses have also been steadily cutting staff so enticing journalists out during office hours without the guarantee of a story has also proved trickier too as time has passed.
Obviously the reason that I wanted to build a personal relationship with the journalists is not because they are such wonderful human beings and your best bet for a cracking afternoon out of the office, although for some of them that is actually true. Rather it was because I wanted to become someone they liked and trusted so that they would be more likely to take stories and information about my client. It was also so that they would come to me when they were thinking about writing anything related to one of my clients.
Likewise, they aren’t in it purely for my scintillating company and a free lunch.
Written down that sounds rather harsh and exploitative, but try to think of it as a mutually beneficial relationship, a ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ as it were. Or perhaps more accurately, I’ll pay for all the food and drink and you pay bit more attention to my clients press releases.
There are other reasons, I would get to know what interested them a bit more, helping to make future pitches more accurate. They would get to know more about the clients I worked on.
And the ultimate reason for trying to build such relationships is because they were regarded as being influential. I wanted them to tell other ppl about my clients, and as they were journalist they could tell thousands or even millions of ppl. That said the influencers have never been purely journalists, and it seems to be a common mistake made by web 2.0 types keen to slate what they see as out-dated PR. So once more for the record public relations is not media relations. PR can take in, among other things, shareholder or investor relations, lobbyists and internal communications
Today, the group of influencers has expanded a bit, and sometime they are harder to spot. The rules of engagement have changed a bit too but the core tenet of public relations remains, to be successful we need to have personal relationships with the influential people, be they journalist, forum poster, blogger, lobbyist, shareholder, employee or a mix of those in one person.