With every nearly every PR pro spewing their take on the recent Burson Marsteller – Facebook smear campaign calamity against Google, it’s not worth digging up the horse just to kick it a few more times. They screwed up, caused a clamor, and now it’s back to business as normal with plenty of advice to listen too, but what can we learn from the supposedly “experienced” flaks at the heart if this debacle?
In general, there are two main things that separate senior-level PR people from the less experienced; existing relationships with the media and an earned reputation (good or bad). The two are eternally intertwined as we move along in our careers building relationships via pitches, networking events, responding to requests etc., all of which feed the perceptions press people have about us. Do a good job and you’ll become a go-to person in the crunch and a trusted source of information. Take a lazy or deceptive approach and press people will allow your emails to reach the “Deleted” folder with little more than a glance, which brings us to the title of the post.
While only insiders know exactly how Facebook advised BM to proceed with the Google smear campaign, it raises some interesting points about the Power of One in PR.
- ONE shot a pitching a story: Spelling errors, irrelevance to the editor/outlet, covering up the real reason for the pitch; all of these things can make or break us with each individual editor we pitch to.
- ONE person can sully an agency/client’s hard-earned reputation: Regardless of what senior BM or Facebook executives told the two PR flaks, the individual actions permanently scarred an award-winning mega-PR firm in an ordeal that is certain to end up in PR text book case studies. That cliché about One bad apple…yeah, that applies here.
- ONE misguided email or flippant comment can crush you: Not satisfied with a response (or lack thereof) from your media outreach efforts? Say the wrong thing to the wrong person and you can get publicly excoriated/blacklisted, possibly affecting future work options. Just ask the people on the Wired PR blacklist or TechCrunch punching bag Lois Whitman.
- ONE size does NOT fit all: The single pitch with a spray and pray approach emailed to 2,000 strangers…that’ll do more to earn you a media person’s disdain than their editorial love. (This didn’t happen in the BM case, but still a good lesson)
- ONE Minute: Generally all it takes to double-check your work and make sure the tone, content, and person you’re approaching are all in the right ballpark.
- ONE Communicator: At our best, we craft and deliver constructive, targeted messages that both satisfy client editorial goals while inspiring the media with newsworthy ideas.
As PR practitioners, we are defined by our ability to forge meaningful, strategic relationships, and then turn those relationships into perception-altering or awareness-creating media for our clients. We need to understand the shortcomings so we don’t get caught up in our own hype, but also keep the positives at top-of-mind so we can massage the right message.
Much of PR work is done on an island. There’s collaboration on the front and back end, but the majority of our “executing” is done as individuals meaning we must respect and understand the power of One.