PR in the Era of the Inbox Rules Wizard

As I sat at my keyboard to write this note I received a phone call from a Singapore publisher, “I am going to meet your client, Metratech, but just as a personal favour. I have banned my journalists from attending daytime events because there just isn’t the staff . We have a constant river of releases pouring to our inbox to wade through. We publish nearly 100 stories per day. ” For an independent publisher this number is astounding. “How do you manage all this news then?” I enquired. “We have a Top10 list of companies to watch for. We set up googlemail filters for their tags and have a few selected PR contacts we trust to send us real news, the rest goes to the junk box. The real villains are the newswires who send us hundreds of irrelevant releases every day. We post potential stories to a biz board and freelancers bid to write them for us – I can buy stories from AOL for US$50,” he said. “What should clients do?” I asked. “Small, personal gatherings to introduce people to one another to get onto the safe list,”   he suggested. “Learn about how the media manages their newsflow now; it is fundamentally different. Too much news and too little budget to cover it all, so it is automated to a large degree.” “What about creating our own content?” “Yes”, he replied. “Then you will be just like us – creating content and tagging it so that it will be picked up by the googles of this world and the newswires, bringing the links back to the site where we display our ads.” Technology has made the sending of information easier and easier, but the internet has also drastically changed the size and nature of the publisher who receives it. “We don’t have time to learn about the key messages of a company any more,” he told me. “News is fashion and we have to always be quick.” Clients always specify deliverables, but in truth Public Relations is about intangibles too like empathy and understanding. Rules wizards and email filters create barriers to even getting in touch with journalists. Ironically the best solution is get personal again, and to use the same tools that the media have at their disposal to self publish. In the era of  rules and workflow,  PR requires some wizardry and the human touch.

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