Nearly 5 years ago, I wrote a LinkedIn blog post (The PR Industry’s Dirty Little Secret) that called out PR practitioners who use their “close relationships” with journalists – along with the implication that those relationships will generate media coverage – to sell their services to prospective clients.
The “Big Lie” in this sales pitch is that no journalist will ever cover a topic because they know your PR rep. Further, any PR rep who pitches stories to journalists based relationships is unlikely to have those relationships for very long.
I had not run into the Big Lie for some time, and believed it had become a remnant of old school PR; that clients had finally caught on, and were showing the door to PR practitioners who claimed their media relationships are for sale.
But in Whack-a-Mole fashion, the Big Lie popped up again last week in a discussion with a prospective client, which went like this:
Prospect: Do you have relationships with influential reporters that can help us get coverage?
Me: I’ve worked with lots of reporters, but I would never pitch them a story simply because they know me.
Prospect: What do you mean?
Me: I would only pitch a reporter if I had a story that was worthy of their consideration. That’s my value proposition. I know what journalists want, and I know how to present it to them in a way that increases the likelihood that they will be interested.
Prospect: But if they already know you, won’t that help our chances of getting the story published?
Me: Not necessarily. Have you worked with a PR firm before?
Prospect: Yes. And I hired them because they had strong media contacts.
Me: How well did they perform?
Prospect: I got absolutely nothing from them. That’s why I’m talking to you.
So apparently…the Big Lie is alive and well in PR Land. And companies are still being played.