Last week I had a very interesting chat with a start-up
founder on the various pros and cons of PR and the role comms plays
(or indeed, perhaps doesn't play) in a start-up business. One
comment particularly stuck, being that he had received around 15
unsolicited approaches from PR agencies in the last year, none of
which were either personal or considered, and would fall quite
happily under the 'spam' bracket.
Now the PR industry has collectively been blindly throwing ideas
at journalists and bloggers without first checking if the idea is
relevant, timely, or even vaguely of interest, for decades. For an
industry so symbiotic with that of the media, we do a great job of
winding them up.
However, it seems this same approach is still inherent in many
approaches to potential clients as well - why is something so
crucial as new business being approached so haphazardly?
Is it because the guy I talked to was a start-up? Is there an
assumption that he doesn't know better? The day after we met, he
sent me a typical example and it beggared belief. I won't reprint
it here, nor name the agency, but it basically said:
Want an [insert improbable statistic] return on your PR
It then linked to a youtube video, and finished. No email sign
off, just the signature. One sentence (poorly phrased), and that
was it. It didn't even say 'hello'.
No context, no understanding, no consideration. Now, why on
God's clean earth would a business owner think 'wow, these guys
should handle my communications strategy' if you can't be bothered
to communicate properly in the first place?
The founder had told me the day before that the PR industry is
not valued among his peers - indeed, we're well below lawyers for
value for money, and mostly seen as mercenary and full of guff.
Statements such as the "guaranteed 300% return on investment"
included in the World's Shortest Pitch don't exactly add
credibility to the industry - and I'm not certain, but I'd bet this
waffle statistic is based on the archaic AVE, which is a rant
waiting to happen…
It's massively frustrating when you hear journalist on a weekly,
(if not daily), basis venting spleen on twitter about impersonal
pitches ('Dear Insert Wrong Name Here'); and blatant email mail
merges ('Dear Editor', 'Dear XXXX' et al.) proving just how much
the PR cares about who they're emailing.
When you see it done as a new business pitch the day after
hearing that the founder of a very exciting business sees PR as
uncaring and just after money, it makes you slightly angry.
Seriously, we're the communications industry - can we not