Tom Foremski had a really interesting post yesterday about the fact that many PR people have more followers than the editors they have to pitch on behalf of their clients. He cites three of my favorite PR bloggers: Brian Solis, Todd Defren and Steve Rubel.
Each of these guys are well-known in the social media community, better known than most of the thinning selection of traditional editors who cover categories where their respective clients might be newsworthy.
But, Tom observes a paradox, these three PR executives rarely if ever write about their own clients and if they did, then they would be more than a little likely to lose the considerable popularity and credibility they have established.
"Having someone else write a story about your client,on a third-party site, where there has been no exchange of money, conveys far higher value to the story," Tom observes. "That's the paradox of PR peoples' large, personal media footprint -- they can't use their own access to large numbers of people to promote their clients."
Tom is absolutely right, of course. But I think there is more irony and nuance than that. There is also the aside, that Brian Solis, Todd Defren and Steve Rubel have reached a point in their careers where they probably do very little media pitching on their own.
I have spent time with each of them and none has ever even mentioned a client to me.I thank them for that. It also means that if one of them ever did, I would listen closely and use it if I thought my readers might care. They have used social media to become very credible in the social media community. They know enough about me, to know what sort of stories would spark my interest and I would consider them truthful sources who weren't spinning an issue to make their clients look better than they should.
This is in stark contrast to some of the pitches I hear on a regular basis, from PR people who do not read me and have not contributed sufficiently in social media for me to check them out and decide if I consider them credible resources.
In addition to seeing social media as a promotional venue, they should also regard it as a building venue. PR people can use blogs and tweets and Facebook posts to build their own reputations and of even greater importance, they can use it to build relationships with people who may make a difference to them or their clients somewhere down the line.
That brings me to a second point. Tom references PR people pitching traditional media for client coverage. If that is all today's PR person is doing in the name of media relations, then they are performing to a diminishing crowd. The truth is that there are fewer traditional media covering fewer topic, they are very often providing less depth and bring less years f expertise to the topic and they are being read by fewer people.
PR people need to realize that the people relevant to their clients can be found, not behind a newspaper or magazine, but in social media venues. These people may be professional journalists, they may be industry enthusiasts or they may just be wandering through a topic.
The way a PR person finds them today is not by wandering down a purchased media list, but by reading the right social media content for their clients and reading it on a very regular basis. They are found by using topical search tools with some skill and imagination.
And then PR people are welcome to join the conversation and build a relationship before they try pitching a client for coverage. This does not take so long, because relationships form quite fast in social media. And if you are good at it, like Brian, Todd and Steve, the taint of PR hucksterism disappears.