When you're interviewing prospective PR firms, one of the first things they'll want to talk about is the number of relationships they have with reporters.
Top PR firms are quick to point out their pre-existing relationships with journalists and to emphasize their access to the most sought after media placements in your industry.
What they won't tell you, however, is that media relationships are often overrated. Does it help if your PR rep has known a targeted journalist for twenty years? Sure, but the journalist's relationship with your PR rep is probably not the most important factor in his decision to cover your pitch idea.
Your PR firm's approach, experience, and expertise play significant roles in media placements. Here's why we think it's more important to focus on those things than on PR relationships when selecting a PR firm.
- PR is a process, not an event. PR firms that overemphasize their media relationships typically approach PR as an event. Rather than looking at PR as a strategic, long-term process, these firms are focused on quick results. Relationships with key journalists are fine, but what you really want to hear about is the strategy the firm will use to deliver lasting results for your company.
- Effective PR breaks new ground. A focus on media relationships speaks to what the PR firm did yesterday–not what they're doing today or what they will be doing tomorrow for your business. Effective PR constantly expands its circle of influence and is focused on developing new relationships with the media.
- It's about the story, stupid. Media relationships are the sizzle, but newsworthy stories are the steak. If your business is pitching truly newsworthy story ideas, you won't be able to keep journalists away from it. On the other hand, no amount of media contacts in the world will compensate for weak storylines. You need a PR firm that pays more attention to the story than to the players.
- PR is complicated. The bottom line is that media contacts are just one factor in a successful PR strategy. Good PR involves a multi-faceted approach to raising your company's profile with the media and consumers. In an age that is becoming increasingly dominated by the flat communication methods of social media, PR strategies that put all their eggs in the relationship basket just doesn't make sense.