23 Sep 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 CNBC.com as an “amazing placement.” A PR professional knows that any wire service will get you a link on CNBC.com 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.