During his presentations, Help a Reporter Out founder Peter Shankman makes the point that PR is practiced differently today than compared to, say, 15 years ago. In the session I attended, three fourths of the room was comprised of PR practitioners who began their careers less than five years ago. The rest knew what it was like to literally dial a phone.
I was in the dial-a-telephone section.
The practice of PR today is filled with an immense amount of “old school PR” versus “new school PR” arguments. The press release is dead; the press release is alive and well. Call a reporter on the phone; don’t call a reporter on the phone.
Amid these contradictions, sometimes you have to stop and ask, “Can’t we all just get along?”
Without admitting my age, the first PR job I had out of college was done without email. Fax, snail mail and telephone ruled the world, much like dinosaurs once did. I spent plenty of time feeding the fax machine, sending out press releases and, subsequently, calling the reporter to make sure he or she received said release (unless they had a fax right there at the desk).
I would be laughed out of the industry if I ran my PR business the same way today. But I believe both schools of thought can co-exist. In fact, I believe technology is making it so that today’s PR is practiced a lot more like the “old school” way.
There are a growing number of younger PR practitioners who have never been to a desk-side briefing yet have successfully generated coverage for many of their clients. They wouldn’t dare think of actually walking into a newsroom with their client and sitting down next to a reporter or editor to discuss a story.
But they have. And it’s done almost every day by even the youngest of PR professionals courtesy of Skype. Technology still allows for a desk-side briefing, it just happens to take place through a computer screen.
And then there are reporter lunches. People working in the media are extremely busy. They simply don’t have time to meet with PR people for lunch—and they let us know about it every chance they get. I mean, who has time to walk away from what they’re doing to gab about all kinds of background gossip and even discuss a favorite television show all in the name of building a relationship?
Yet, this practice happens every single day to most of us in the profession—the young and the not so young. It’s called Twitter. Maybe you’re not physically having lunch together. But the point of the reporter lunch was never about that pastrami on rye. It was about building a lasting relationship.
Bottom line: The tools may have changed, but the skills—and the end goal—remain the same.
John Sternal is the founder of Sternal Communications and helps businesses become better communicators through his blog UnderstandingMarketing.com.