In an abstract conversation about PR pitches, we would probably agree that having an established relationship with journalists is an important aspect of a successful pitch. If we’re being pragmatic it’s an entirely different conversation.
Email and social media give unprecedented access to journalists and influencers, but they give that access to anyone. And with the advent of digital, journalists have an increasing amount of responsibility and a decreasing amount of time to do more stuff.
Resources constraints aren’t unique to journalists, either. A tactic like Slow PR (where journalist and influencer relationships are cultivated throughout time) is resource-intensive for PR practitioners. It requires time, research, outreach, persistence and effort to maintain a network of a people who are (usually) writing about small niches.
What I want to do in this post is explore the benefits of Slow PR compared to a traditional PR pitch. I don’t want to lob softballs, though. So when I say traditional PR pitch, I mean a GOOD PR pitch. Put more simply: if you’re a good PR practitioner, are the upfront resources necessary for Slow PR worth the reward?
1. PR faces a PR problem
Kelly Stone from The Hoffman Agency writes that there is a general negative perception of PR:
Many reporters do not enjoy engaging with PR professionals. To most reporters, emails from PR professionals are considered SPAM. Truly. We are, in fact, considered SPAM to people we dream about building relationships with.
When you are pitching to a journalist or influencer, they are likely projecting all of the PR experiences that preceded yours onto you. Because of this, a well-conceived PR pitch could be disregarded despite its merits.
Proactively building relationships with journalists and influencers is a way to circumvent this filter.
2. Slow PR affords time to learn details
Gideon Lichfield of Quartz (and formerly of the Economist) writes that Slow PR is resource-intensive but is the most effective way to pitch stories to journalists:
(Learning) not just what they cover but what they’ve written before, what they’re experts in, where they’ve lived, the things they believe in, the things they love, the things that make them mad. It also means understanding the nuances of their news outlet — who it writes for, how it frames its stories, how its readers find those stories.
A lot of advice for establishing relationships with journalists describes reading their articles and social feeds. Lichfield’s description of Slow PR shows how you can understand the writer’s preferences, topics, and the overarching purpose of the publication as well.
A well-constructed pitch that is off-point or irrelevant to the journalist or influencer is a waste of resource.
3. Slow PR requires you allows you to show value
Paul Wilke of Upright Communications writes that Slow PR allows you to show value to a journalist or blogger upfront:
If you only reach out to people when you need them, what’s the benefit for them? …I’ve often been in situations where a journalist needs something that I either don’t have or can’t provide. For the sake of the relationship I will go out of my way to help them out, even if it means me pointing them in the direction of the competition.
A good PR pitch may add some value, but certainly not at the scale that Wilke describes.
- I give value first
- I help other people.
- I strive to be the best at what I love to do.
- I establish long-term relationships with everyone.
- I have fun…and I do that every day.
If you can be THIS valuable with a journalist, imagine the access you would get….
4. Slow PR gives you the advantages of (real) access
Christopher Penn of Shift Communications describes the capability to clarify as one big advantage of Slow PR:
Asking detailed inquiries of journalists to make sure the pitches that do get sent are 100% on target.
When it comes to understanding what a journalist needs at any particular time, reading their social timelines and past articles can only give you so much information. If you have the capability to ask, you can understand exactly what a journalist needs and then negotiate if and how you can provide that for them.
Slow PR is kind of like a more exclusive HARO.
5. Ironically, Slow PR allows you to be really fast
Sylvia Avontuur of Press Only describes that Slow PR affords PR practitioners a level of speed that they otherwise wouldn’t have. She says that time-sensitive news has a higher likelihood of being picked up by journalists who have an established relationship with a PR practitioner.
When time is of the essence, having established relationships with journalists and influencers can speed the process of propagating a message. And while speed is important to you, journalists may not have the same sense of urgency to publish about a topic. A good relationship with a journalist allows you to be upfront about what you need and want as well.
The perfect PR pitch could be dismissed for unfair reasons. Journalists don’t have time and a lot of PR practitioners (not you) are trying to monopolize their time with (what they perceive as) spam.
Slow PR allows PR practitioners to devote skill and resource to adding value for journalists, rather than simply asking for coverage. It’s a way to understand better, communicate better, pitch better, and most importantly to give PR practitioners a higher likelihood of success.
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