Modern PR: New Incentives to Behave Professionally

We know they’re out there. The people who say they’re in PR, but they really just play a numbers game – sending as many emails as possible, in hopes of getting a small percentage of recipients to cover their clients. In fact, most of us have probably competed for business against these spammers in sheep’s clothing, and they often offer their services on the cheap, since their lazy approach requires less time. They also demean our profession in a way that’s highly frustrating.

But unless you’ve been watching closely you may not be aware that, with the rise of blogs, we can now see for ourselves the horrors that reporters are exposed to each day. Exposés on sources like The Bad Pitch Blog (a must-read) will make your toes curl. And some reporters and prominent bloggers have fought back, serving as both the judge and the jury, in the form of very public outings and PR blacklists.

So for those of us who’ve always practiced PR based on building relationships and providing relevant information to highly targeted journalists and other audiences, in our more snarky moments these public outings may feel kind of satisfying. We might think, “Ha! Look at those lame, spammy PR people getting their come-uppance!” But the truth is, it’s bad for our business as a whole, since people tend to paint all PR pros with a broad brush.

Why It Matters

There is a perception out there, even among those fighting the good fight, that the blanket-broadcasting PR folks are in the majority. It’s my opinion that they are not. They just create so much noise that – to those receiving their boatloads of crapola – it seems like those doing it right must be in the minority.

And let’s be honest: it’s not that hard to make a mistake. The media moves around so much (especially these days), I’m sure many of us have gotten confused on occasion and sent an irrelevant pitch. An over-reliance on media databases is another widespread source of missteps. Many of the PR people on the blacklists are known spammers, but some are not. Perhaps they made a simple mistake, and are being publicly ridiculed for it.

Which brings us back to the central point: In this environment, where anything you do or say could end up as fodder for someone’s less than flattering blog post, it's wise to take extra care to mind your P’s and Q’s. So, unless you’d like to see yourself publicly humiliated, make sure you’re familiar with the outlets you pitch, take care to contact them according to their guidelines, and avoid the lame services that promise shortcuts. It may be tempting short-term, but in the end it’s your reputation on the line.

On the plus side, all of this exposure to anti-PR sentiment allows us to see, with crystal clarity, what kinds of communications drive the recipients batty. As a result, there’s no excuse for bad behavior. Be one of the good ones!

What do you think? Have you learned by seeing the mistakes of others?

More posts in the Modern PR series:

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