Spray and Pray- PR for the 21st Century

I must first thank Josh Sterberg for the blog post title. I had a thought today pulling together a PR strategy for a client. This thought came up again when helping a friend develop a target media list for his upcoming launch. And again when discussing the recent PR strategy a friend did...he's not in PR and had one of the most successful PR announcements I've seen.

The planning and strategy that goes into a PR campaign can be quite extensive. Figuring out the targets you want to reach out to can turn into a list of more than hundreds of contacts. Emails, phone #s, now Twitter handles. PR agencies house extensive Excel documents owning this content. (I bet they're worth a lot of money. Imagine a black market for media lists?)

A LOT goes into it and sometimes the results aren't as wide as the effort you put into it. And you know what? It SUCKS. Hours. Days. Sometimes, they feel wasted. Yes, you do the research, build relationships with reporters to help spread the news. Yes, you could do everything right and meet all of your goals. Sure, you can plan a full strategy, send out the news early hoping they don't break the embargo (ahem TechCrunch). The news can get picked up by major outlets, print publications, online, etc.. your hours of pitching, calling, press release writing, strategy planning, client calls---all of it equals success. But sometimes, does the huge effort that goes into something really feel like a success? Or, are you just focusing on the next campaign and running cycles in your head to think that there MUST be an easier way to spread news. Especially with online social networks launching on what seems like a weekly basis.

What about a retweet? I've said it before but I'm really starting to think that we're moving in this direction. So many people interact on Twitter and Tumblr. It's become mainstream. It's a tangible method of "Word of Mouth" marketing in my opinion. A photo of an Arrested Development still or a 9 layer pizza taco gets spread around and commented on within minutes of the original post. And yes, while this may not be as important as a product announcement or a strategy overhaul at a major company---it's a trend to be looked at it. It's working. Quick "Retweeting/blogging" could be a future line item in a PR campaign.

Before the nay sayers come and start yelling that this won't happen and that not everyone is on Twitter/Tumblr that should be seeing this news, please know that I get that. And that's not what I'm saying. What I want to focus on is the trend of pushing out a news piece and, dare I say it, crossing your fingers hoping someone super influential crosses it and sends it off into online news traveling history. That's half of the strategy now anyway! "Send this news to the influencers" Get the release to the one or two guys at the top and watch the trickle down effect happen. As this "strategy" continues, why couldn't it move to focusing more on building your relationships (something you should be doing as a PR person anyway) and getting to know those top influencers. Figuring a way to push one simple message to them and knowing from research/knowledge that they'd probably want to push it out themselves and kick off the effect. As long as you have a product that is newsworthy, this could totally work and make this shift.

There's no concrete strategy behind this, just like word of mouth, but I still think we'll see the PR flow shift towards doing this for SOME campaigns.

So, what would work? Here are some ideas.
  • Tech product launches. Spec products from Apple are spread around virally all of the time. Most of the time they're false, but one of them COULD be true. Some of these links get sent around to thousands of blogs instantly.
  • "Viral video campaigns" (Put a dollar in a jar if someone has asked you to make their video go "viral"---now give me the jar so I can go shopping) can actually do this on these platforms---if the content is good. College Humor videos that air online---many find out because they follow their Tumblr accounts. Easy and done.
What do you think? Am I completely off? Have you used retweeting as a successful method to spread the news? Share in the comments.

1 Response to Spray and Pray- PR for the 21st Century

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 12:54:00 PM EDT

Kristin - I completely agree. Great thinking and smart positioning have to at least CONSIDER the digital piece and most need to have some strategy focused on digital. thanks for the great insight!

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