PR's "Big Lie" is Alive and Well


Nearly 5 years ago, I wrote a LinkedIn blog post (The PR Industry’s Dirty Little Secret) that called out PR practitioners who use their “close relationships” with journalists – along with the implication that those relationships will generate media coverage – to sell their services to prospective clients.

The “Big Lie” in this sales pitch is that no journalist will ever cover a topic because they know your PR rep. Further, any PR rep who pitches stories to journalists based relationships is unlikely to have those relationships for very long.

I had not run into the Big Lie for some time, and believed it had become a remnant of old school PR; that clients had finally caught on, and were showing the door to PR practitioners who claimed their media relationships are for sale.

But in Whack-a-Mole fashion, the Big Lie popped up again last week in a discussion with a prospective client, which went like this:

Prospect: Do you have relationships with influential reporters that can help us get coverage?

Me: I’ve worked with lots of reporters, but I would never pitch them a story simply because they know me.

Prospect: What do you mean?

Me: I would only pitch a reporter if I had a story that was worthy of their consideration. That’s my value proposition. I know what journalists want, and I know how to present it to them in a way that increases the likelihood that they will be interested.

Prospect: But if they already know you, won’t that help our chances of getting the story published?

Me: Not necessarily. Have you worked with a PR firm before?

Prospect: Yes. And I hired them because they had strong media contacts.

Me: How well did they perform?

Prospect: I got absolutely nothing from them. That’s why I’m talking to you.

So apparently…the Big Lie is alive and well in PR Land. And companies are still being played.

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