If you’re just getting your first message from a public relations (PR) professional, and you are wondering why you’re being graced with our august presence, this article is for you. And, if you’re among those who receive dozens of seemingly pointless emails from PR people, and you’re wondering what in the blue blazes is going through our minds, this article is definitely for you.
I’m Erik Sebellin-Ross, one of the very PR people writing to you every day. I’ve been in PR for four years now, and I work for a firm named Peppercom Strategic Communications (shameless plug: We have a blog, too). My goal is to shed some light on what we do, how we work, and, more importantly, what we can do for you, hopefully turning an interruption into an opportunity. You really need to know all this because, as blogs become increasingly influential from a marketing perspective, more and more of us are going to contact you.
Why are PR people writing to me?
We want you to write something that would benefit the companies we represent. We feel your readers are a part of an audience that buys our client’s products, or invests in their stocks, and we want your readers to act — to start buying or, at least, start liking. And we’re talking to you, specifically, because we’ve checked you out and think you have a sufficient number of readers or influence to make our time investment worthwhile.
Less common, but still a possibility, is the networking angle. We want to be in with all of the right people, we want to be able to direct or friends and co-workers in the field towards the right people, and we want a big rolodex. This helps us in our careers, but it can also help you as your PR contacts change jobs to different companies or industries.
How do PR people find me?
As you know, there are a lot of blogs out there. Finding the right ones – the ones with the biggest or most appropriate audience – is difficult. We use a range of search engines (such as Technorati, Google Blog Search, etc.) and services (www.MediaMapOnline.com, a database of journalists and bloggers, for example), and we also look at blogrolls. Unfortunately, the process runs into snags, and you can sometimes find yourself receiving information that has little or no connection to you.
All right, so let’s talk about the irritating emails
So you’ve been discovered, and now the torrent of emails begins. If we’ve done our homework, you’ll instantly see the value of the information and will create a post based on the information we sent you or ask us for more information.
But sometimes PR professionals (fresh-faced interns and grizzled veterans alike) make honest mistakes. Or, worse, don’t do their homework. They build lists of targets without ensuring that every single target is perfect, and they blast out an email using the blind carbon copy feature…and suffer the consequences. Of which there are rarely any – unless we’ve pitched ValleyWag. In the process, of course, we basically spam you and ensure you hate seeing our names appear in your inbox. If it is the former, we truly are sorry. If it is the latter, I’m even more sorry.
What can PR people do for me?
A big part of our job is to provide information, so, if you have questions about a company, product, or service, PR people can help you get the answers. If you want to speak with an executive, engineer, designer, or other employee, we can help you there, too – we even book meetings. If you want to review a product, or try out a service, you guessed it: we can help with this, too.
The best and fastest way to find a PR contact is to go to the website of a company you’re interested in and find their press or media page. This is regularly found under the “About Us” or “Contact Us” pages. Another alternative is to look for a press release – we almost always list our contact information on these.
A snag you might hit
PR people need to be “strategic.” This means that, because we work under tight budgets and have limited resources, we have to pick and choose our battles. So, as much as we’d like to work with every single publication and blog, regardless of size, we realistically cannot. When you contact us, we’ll sometimes ask you to tell us about who reads your blog, what kind of traffic you get, and what you want to write about so we can decide if we can devote time to you. If you’re turned down because you’re too small, consider banding together with a group of similar bloggers and approach the PR person as a unified group to increase your value.
So bottom line this for me
When we write to you, take a moment to look beyond our email. Think about what are you writing about, or planning to write about, and ask yourself if a PR person can help you get more information. Another thing to consider is whether a fellow blogger could benefit from some information you just received. Forwarding it to them could earn you brownie points that would translate into traffic. Every message from us is an opportunity!
Erik Sebellin-Ross is a senior account executive in Peppercom Strategic Communication’s San Francisco office. He can be reached directly at [email protected]