In our opinion: PR targeting

IAIN Fleming is in the business of trying to wean people off email as a way of delivering media releases to journalists.

So, it was hardly surprising when, given the opportunity to survey journalists about the PR industry, he wanted to know their views on media releases sent by email.

Applying the usual qualifications that come with his sample size being quite small, the results should come as little surprise to anyone.

As many a cynical old hack will tell you, media releases are penned by a Samantha or Charlotte who kind of knows how to craft a top line in the same way as a GP kind of knows how to remove teeth.

And so it came to pass. Fleming’s survey suggests that whatever passes for a working relationship between hack and PR person is little more than a cute, computer-crashing email of irrelevance away from being smashed to smithereens.

Fleming’s business is about delivering media releases straight into editorial in-boxes, by-passing email altogether. And there are lots of types of communication with the media that have always been wholly unsuited to email. Not least important stuff. But from what at least some people are telling him, emails are now being sent with the precision of junk mail.

And in the wake of this chucking-spaghetti-at-the-wall percentage game, all it need take is a phone call to ask, “Have you received….?”, to antagonise the intended journalist recipient to such an extent the whole exercise becomes totally counter-productive.

The case for better targeting of media releases is overwhelming.

If the temptation has always been there on the part of PRs to blitzkrieg hapless reporters with the latest piece of impenetrable self-congratulatory jargon, at least it used to come up against one barrier: all hail the second-class stamp and the occasionally striking postie.

The guilty secret is that hacks need media releases as probably never before, as less and less of them are required to churn out page after page.

And of course can only welcome this development, since it too is in the business of helping deliver media releases.

But here’s a thing. Not every media outlet operates an email address dedicated to receiving media releases and media releases only. And if they do, they don’t make enough of a ‘song and dance’ about it.

Such a facility could be managed by the media outlet in a way that prevents big attachments threatening the rest of the system and would allow for instant ‘copytasting’ decisions on whether to keep or delete.

And media outlets would be doing frazzled PR folk a favour were they to operate, and widely promote, such a facility.

Directories of media contact details – costing hundreds, even thousands, of pounds to subscribe to – exist partly to reassure PR people they are managing to keep up with the blistering pace of personnel change within the media.

PS Tonight, the Scottish branch of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations meets for its annual awards ceremony.