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Why aren’t traditional PR tactics enough any more?

Posted by Debby Penton on 6th May 2015

“Traditional” has become a bit of a dirty word in PR terms. It implies the reliance on old school tactics in today’s complex media environment. And while I would agree that it’s just not enough to rely on the traditional tactics to cut through the noise for clients these days, I thought it would be worth exploring a couple of these traditional tactics to see what’s changed.

Press releases: Dead or alive?

The humble press release has been much maligned in recent years, and we have seen many proclamations that it is in fact dead. It’s not, it’s very much alive, and will continue to be so. Try picking up the phone to a journalist and selling in a story. If they are interested then nine times out of ten, they’ll ask you to send over the press release. (They may also ask you to do this if they are not interested of course, as it’s a nice way to get you off the phone.) It helps them assess the value of any story quickly (they read headline and first paragraph if you’re lucky) as well as providing key facts and attributable quotes. What’s not to love?

Well, it’s long been a lazy way for brands and PRs to shout boring news from the roof tops in the vain hope someone will cut and paste the story onto a news site. Probably 75% of press releases are just guff and would be better not written at all. Stories of real value can and should be sold in to the media in different ways and not peppered to every journalist under the sun.

Challenge your agency as to whether a press release is the best way to announce your news. Would an exclusive interview with your CEO result in better quality coverage for a real story? If it’s not hot news, and no one is likely to want to write about it, would a blog be better? If you’ve got a community or decent social media following, then perhaps promote it through a number of tweets or posts instead.

Are customers the most valuable PR asset?

Stories of happy customers are the icing on the cake to any B2B tech PR campaign, but more often than not, they are one of the hardest things to get signed off due to any number of factors: problems with implementation, change of personnel, lack of priority in the customers’ marketing team, lack of spokesperson authority, a negotiating tactic… you get the picture. They take a lot of energy and persistence.

However, they are still important, so case studies always tend to feature on the PR activity list. But customer stories and case studies (in the traditional sense) are not necessarily the same. These days written case studies are of little value to the media-pitching armoury in their own right. Sure, you might need them for your sales team and to help bring credibility to your website to support the buying cycle, but long gone are the days that quality media publish prewritten case studies wholesale.

That said, customer stories are still important for PR. Journalists do want to talk to customers; but you don’t need a signed off case study to make that happen, just enough information about the customer implementation to secure their interest and a customer willing to jump on the phone. And there are other ways to crack the case study nut too. Videos, speaking slots, award entries – these are all a lot easier to get approval for, not to mention more engaging for the audience!

So traditional PR – good or bad?

Well one thing’s for sure: press releases and case studies are no longer the mainstay of the PR programme in the same way they might have been 10-15 years ago. There is life in those favourite old PR tactics yet. But not in isolation. If you want your PR programme to succeed, you need an agency that is skilled in that “traditional” art of story telling. One that understands your audience, gets under the skin of your business to understand what makes you different and then develops campaigns, thought leadership, and creative ways to communicate those messages and engage your audience via influencers and directly.

Debby Penton

Motivated, competitive and highly experienced, Debby drives excellence across the agency and leads by example, going the extra mile to create stand-out campaigns and a dynamic agency culture. As CEO, Debby champions a new breed of PR that meets the evolving communication needs of today’s tech companies.