DIY public relations – don’t buy the snake oil

DIY public relations – don’t buy the snake oil

The other night I apologized to an editor in chief of a major magazine  – the intern had pulled her name from Cision and I didn’t notice before we started pitching. My apology turned into an opportunity for this editor (who was working at 10pm her time, by the way) to start a rant on how pitches came into her email “like weeds”. Many people doing their own PR look at the masthead of the magazine, screw up their courage and pitch right to the top. That might seem like a good idea, but in reality, most unknown people get into stories through a freelancer, who isn’t listed in the magazine. Or an associate editor. Or through HARO. NOT by sending their “amazing, creative and compelling” pitch to an editor in chief.

I realize that everybody can’t afford to hire a PR person. But I really wish these DIY publicity “teachers” would teach something other than “how to write a fantastic pitch for the Today Show” that ends up in the email of a top producer who never works at that level. There are relationships that need to be developed, protocol to follow and a natural hierarchy of media that virtually no DIY teacher is teaching. Basically, people are learning how to be salespeople to the media…which the media HATES.  You can’t just pitch holiday guides and magically have it turn into “thousands of dollars in sales”. Or send to 10 or 20 people and get 2-3 feature articles! Or how about creating a pitch the media can’t resist! Or better yet, buy this book and get into O Magazine to become an overnight sensation! 

These people are selling snake oil and I’m tired of it. And so are the editors who have to wade through this crap.

I tried helping coach people a while ago to do their own PR. A couple people did a great job but many people wanted me to tell them how to get on Oprah or the Today Show with very little effort. Most of these DIY PR teachers know that, and they are out to get your money by adding you to the list of their AMAZING teleseminars. They’re hustlers and most of them have never been public relations people.  They don’t even understand what makes a good placement…I know one ex-copywriter turned PR coach “extraordinaire” who was celebrating a link on as an “amazing placement.” A PR professional knows that any wire service will get you a link on and usually it gets you nothing.  Hire a good person to write a professional press release, do your research and learn to pitch appropriately. We don’t all cost “thousands, and thousands of dollars”  …you can often get a great release for less than $500.

I’m not saying there aren’t some good people with good books and seminars showing people how to put the hours in and get PR. (Steve Harrison is one of those) It just burns me up when I see the hucksters making big promises and messing with people’s dreams. If you want to learn how to do PR, read the reputable blogging, PR and makreting sites and learn it the hard way. For small fry, PR is about attraction rather than promotion.  It’s harder, and it takes longer, but it is well worth it in the long run.  Seriously, quit buying the snake oil.




  • Ana @ Deceased Estate Sales
    Posted at 11:13h, 23 September Reply

    I know what you mean. But no matter how many times yuo repeat it, or how many people you refuse to represent, there will always be those who want to get something vernight with as little effort as possible.

    So, as long as there are people who want to buy their way to the top, there will be people to take that money. I’m not sure if I even feel sorry for them.

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    Posted at 12:05h, 23 September Reply

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  • alex
    Posted at 00:36h, 24 September Reply

    Hello. It’an interesting article. I like.

  • Amplified Speaker
    Posted at 15:11h, 24 September Reply

    OK, Thank you for your advice.

  • Dean | Life Coach
    Posted at 08:39h, 26 September Reply

    As long as there are people who want success without effort, there will be get rich quick schemes. It’s aggravating, but I don’t see it going away.

  • knuckle duster mug
    Posted at 11:33h, 26 September Reply

    Well there are people who are all hype and overpriced but fails to give you the PR you need like they all promised. This is a critical issue and thanks for clearing this up. There are indeed service that cheap yet live the promise they make to help you promote your product.

  • Taaza Finance
    Posted at 04:18h, 27 September Reply

    Really very interesting and informative post. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Small Business PR
    Posted at 17:44h, 27 September Reply

    Very good article, sometimes I forget this stuff and that I’m selling to reporters. I feel that there’s a fine line that you have to walk with reporters where you’re stroking their egos but not sucking up. I think people get lazy because selling to them is easier.

    Also, I don’t know about “makreting” sites, but I love reading marketing sites for information.

  • steve
    Posted at 09:13h, 28 September Reply

    From my limited experience in the PR field I’ll have to admit that I’ve tried the DIY route and it has been very much a hit and miss process.

    I tried going for the quick fix and a fast launch of a PR campaign and then realised that it takes time to develop connections and build up a lasting reputation. I like you line about PR being about attraction, rather than promotion. I’ll have to remember that one.

  • Liam Duffy
    Posted at 07:04h, 12 October Reply

    Id like to see a summary guide on PR if you have time to write one? but i also agree the social media channels are full of self titled Gurus and Experts. The industry is awash of them..

  • California Free mls
    Posted at 10:55h, 13 October Reply

    I agree, social media is important and it has become even more crucial to learn more about social media but there are too many self styled gurus. There are hundred of gurus and it becomes confusing while trying to select the best one.

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