I must applaud John Wagner again for this post about the newsworthiness of products.
I'm especially impressed and thankful for John's frank and honest assessment of product promotion via media relations. Why am I that impressed? Because for every practitioner like John, who will say "Listen, this is a great product, but I don't want you to waste your money chasing clips for no business purpose," there are 500 agencies or soloists who will gladly take your money, slam the editors with empty pitches, produce not much in result, and thus perpetuate the sham side of our industry.
Nothing against any particular agency or practitioner. Not at all. The fact simply is that if PR wants the proverbial "seat at the table" it's always demanding, the industry needs to aggressively re-orient itself (and the way it's perceived) away from chasing newspaper headlines and toward building productive relationships and exchanges of information.
And that does not mean this kind of bullshit:
“_____.com Leads Web 2.0 Revolution with New Unrivalled Revenue-Sharing Social Networking Site
In one of the most monumental projects ever created for the Internet, _____.com has launched a never-before-seen user-powered news site, positioning the company to achieve success of MySpace and YouTube proportions.”
Aren't you tired of writing that? Aren't you tired of your leading provider client endlessly re-editing the release to make sure "everyone understands [their] positioning"? Aren't you tired of slamming the phones, hoping editors didn't File 13 your preciously wordsmithed press release?
Sometimes the press release and won't-you-please-make-me-famous phoneathon process reminds me of a needy teenager hoping and swooning and begging for attention from the object of their desire, who has about seven other things on which to concentrate. Begging for attention when there's not much reason to pay it is -- and this is put mildly, obviously, a waste of time.
How about a position of strength instead? Wouldn't that be better? And, of course, how do you get one of those?
You get it by finding common ground and a shared agenda. You build a relationship with a journalist, preferably before you start having news to share. You get smart with him/her about the industry, feed data to one another and compare notes. You do that as well with your customers -- by getting in front of them, reading what they say about you and your products in the myriad forums easily available through the magic of a .45 second Internet search. You get to know your competitors and learn to anticipate what they're going to say about you. You hold your tongue on the news front until you have news. You make something authentic that addresses a known market pain. You do your homework.
This takes time, and you must be patient.
Looks like I got off on a rant here, and I didn't really mean to. I started with a simple kudos to a blogger / practitioner I admire and enjoy reading. But I keep hoping my tiny voice can get a little amplification here and help dislodge some of the very old and very tired practices we seem to insist on employing, at either our own or our clients' behest, and which are proven nearly daily to be largely ineffective.