PR Strategy: Crossing the Tortoise

Humans are creatures of habit and sometime that works for us and sometimes against us. I’ve previously mentioned how impressed I am at the understanding, interest and adoption of blogging by PR practitioners. Unlike previous technology waves, it appears that the profession at least see the potential of blogs in communications. Many are embracing the concept, or at the very least investigating it. That’s excellent news for our profession – though as I’ve said before there’s more to online communication than blogs – but that’s for another day.

So what has this to do with habit?

The Internet has created an instantaneous environment. When we want the latest news we can find it and read it in a few keystrokes. When we need to find some specific information we can similarly discover, scan and digest in seconds. The Internet provides fast online communication with tools like instant messaging that not only enable us to connect and communicate in real time, but inform us whether people are available.

This speed and simplicity has spoilt us somewhat. It has become a habit. A couple of weeks ago Stephen Davies posed the question of what PR was like in the pre-Internet age. My response, and it’s similar for many of the other PR dinosaurs out there, is that one of the major differences was that a lot of time was invested undertaking tasks that today we can accomplish in a fraction of the time – think research. As a result we’re getting more work done, but more importantly it changes our expectations of how long any specific task should take – and that my friend is not necessarily a good thing. Sometimes it’s advisable to invest some time rather than rushing headlong into a task.

Let me explain.

Blogs are a great example. We can identify and contact bloggers on any given subject in minutes. We can quickly and easily scan their blogs to see if their content is relevant and we can use tools like Technorati or BlogPulse to try and gauge their influence, but do we stop to understand the blog?

Two separate conversations this week have led me to believe that the Internet has spoilt us and has put unrealistic expectations into our heads. Two different marketing/PR folks were in touch asking my opinion on undertaking blog relations. Both saw the value of blog relations, but wanted to know how they could pull together an outreach campaign quickly. Both mentioned they were under time pressures. You see, given you can find anything online quickly, you can communicate quickly, well then you must be able to communicate well quickly. It’s the Hare’s approach to online PR. The reality is somewhat different.

Rather than racing to throw some bloggers into the e-mail hopper, I believe you would be better advised to follow the tortoise’s example. Take a deep breath, slow down and let that wonder of millions of years of evolution, your brain, take over from the speed of the Internet. If you really want to effectively pitch bloggers, then just like journalists you need to identify them, understand their audience, understand their policy on PR pitches and then tailor your pitch to effectively communicate with them. I call it crossing the tortoise – not because it makes any sense, but simply because coining these ridiculous phrases seems to make people lots of money. I must remember to trademark it. Anyhow I digress…

The Internet is fast, easy and available (there’s so many potential one liners there), but that doesn’t mean that your approach should share those characteristics. If you are serious about online communication, have something to say and value the opinions and readers of a blogger then invest the time in understanding the blog. Mail merges or “tailored” press releases may hit hundreds of bloggers, but I believe your success will be limited.

I had a couple of interesting Hare pitches recently. Just today I got two “tailored” pitches from two different people at the same PR agency about a client that had little if any relevance to this blog. Now I know you’ll have a hard time believing this, but the the tailored pitches were identical, what are the odds on that? Well you know what they say about an infinite number of monkeys. If you ask me they would have been better sticking with the tortoise.