For PR, is throwing spaghetti at the wall all that bad?

For PR, is throwing spaghetti at the wall all that bad?

Public relations has changed so much in the last few years it’s hard to even define it anymore. We’re still reaching out in some fashion but the media has morphed from a handful of desirable networks and print pubs into a gelatinous mess of bloggers, news feeds, online sites, social media and podcasts.

Another thing that’s changed is that bloggers and other journalists have become much more accessible to the general public. For that reason, many people think public relations should be a lot cheaper. Which is where flinging noodles into space comes into play. If you’re considering working with a public relations person, you shouldn’t completely thumb your nose at that approach. Here’s why: 

First of all, building and maintaining relationships with journalists was easier when they stayed at one publication for 10 or 15 years. Now they move around every year or so it seems. Publicists who work in a specific genre have had the hardest time with this. Not only are they expected to be subject matter experts, their relationships are supposed to be long lasting and powerful. And in some cases they still are. But more and more editorial space is being  sucked into advertorial, or handed to advertisers first in print and web mediums. (And in TV too, although they refuse to admit it.) Clients without budgets for advertising have smaller and smaller pieces of the pie as this progresses.

My point is there are elements of success in both  the “relationship” and the “spaghetti” approach. A good publicist these days knows that building and maintaining relationships should be part of their daily job. They also know that every day there are hundreds of new media personnel to not only meet, but pitch. Add to that clients have shorter and shorter windows of expectations for results. Because nobody knows that viral video took 3 months to shoot, 2 months to plan and another several months before it went viral in one day.

So we’ve learned that we also have to cast a wide net, or throw our spaghetti out there, in order to catch those outlier placements and find those new blogs and writers. I use an email service to do this, and regularly find 2-3 placements that stick against the wall. Good ones.

The danger comes when clients want both – the relationships you have and the spaghetti you throw – for the cost of the spaghetti. If you want to pay someone $500 or $750 a month (or pay for placement), you will get a media team that has learned how to generate the most pitching for the least amount of cost. And that’s all spaghetti throwing time. Don’t complain if they don’t bring you Good Morning America. You’re not paying for that type of relationship. If you want the big leagues, you need to hire the heavy hitters and they cost money. 

The best thing to do is to ask your publicist or media relations team about their process. Pose these questions and then evaluate whether you’re going to get your money’s worth:

  • Do they have a record of gaining placements in your specific genre? 
  • Do they typically send press releases or do they create specific pitches based on the calendar, current news, etc?
  • Do they pitch a “hot list” one to one or all of their pitches automated?
  • Where do they get their lists?
  • How do they see public relations fitting into your long term brand building?