Friday, January 5, 2018
This morning I reached out to a reporter literally just to say hi. I had no ulterior motive. I've worked with the guy before - he used to write at WIRED, now he's at The Verge. He's fantastic. Smart. I won't name him but your detective skills probably can guess who it is in two seconds. I have real interest in what he does. I read his work regularly. I read all sorts of writing regularly. Writers from all different beats and all different walks of life.
I don't do it because I want to be a better person. I don't think much will make me a better person. Maybe someone will read this blog and say 'hey, that makes sense to me,' and that'll be counted as being a better person.
To get to the point, I read because it's interesting. I probably will never have a client to do with Chinese hacking (though I'm sure I'll have a client that will say they are) but I've read both Business Insider and Economist articles on the subject. I would be very surprised if I ever saw a drone, but I've read about them a fair amount. Will I ever wear a dress? No, but I do read the Browsing section of the NYT Thursday styles.
I find writing interesting. I find a lot of different subjects interesting. I find writers interesting. The writer I just wrote about is a great guy, and someone I care about reading and care about the work of. The other writers I talk to are interesting too. I find their lives and the intersection of what they do and who they are interesting, even if some of them are mostly on the beat of covering whatever the latest happenings - banal or otherwise - are in the mobile space. I care about their biases and their loves and their hates, even from a distance, even those that I don't talk to regularly or even at all.
Maybe this is why I am good at or stay in PR. Maybe this is the difference - maybe this is what the core of doing a job well is. Not to be fascinated by 'media' or 'technology' or what have you but to understand and care about the writers and what they do. To read and absorb information as they do not as if I'm gathering weaponry for an oncoming war but as if I'm as interested in it as they are.
That next step, beyond being able to be able to talk like a reasonable human being and understanding that some reporters may respond to you with - and I quote - "That is gay as hell", is to actually understand and interact with the industry you're working in. I'm not saying that you should start a startup - then again, I'm probably going to do that because why not - but maybe you should read stuff and have opinions on it and then talk to these writers about said opinions in such a way that you are a person that they talk to.
This will make your life easier. This will make you better at PR. There is no deception or lies or trickery here. If X reporter already knows you because they've read one or two of your blogs, or you've talked to them over twitter in any way more salient than just GREAT STORY ABOUT X or TRUE DAT or just rewetted them, then they'll probably be more likely to open that email of yours. They may still say it's crap. In fact I'd put money on it. But the next email, and the next, and the next, will have a better chance of being read and understood.
I feel like the deficiency in most of PR is a lack of genuine interest in the goings-on of the industry you're in. Just because you like your iPhone and have played Angry Birds doesn't mean you 'love media.' Nor does reading the very basic industry blogs and knowing what the news of the day is in a very general way. Actually get into what you're doing to such an extent that this is what you DO for a living, instead of it being an inert service industry professional.
Probably my best/favourite example of this is Jonnie Bryant from Blizzard (makers of World of Warcraft and other such huge games). The guy knows his MMOs/PC Games like nobody else. Same goes for Geoffrey Coalter at MWW who handles Nikon and actually knows cameras well enough to discuss them and not shove them down my throat. Guy knows Canon as well as he knows Nikon. That's a mark of class.
Also, good lord, disagree with them or get in on a discussion. If you think something is silly say it. Have an opinion. Read all about a subject and get in on people talking about it. PR - and to an extent conversations between 20-somethings these days (in the media) - has become this weird banal analog of discussing only things you like.
It's not wrong to hate. Our hate makes us who we are. Our love makes us who we are. We must have passion and interests and feelings and contribute those feelings to a larger discussion if we are to actually be part of this industry instead of just saying we 'do tech PR.' That is how we are human. That is how we are functioning members of society.
I'll explain how it feels from the other side, back from when I was writing. I'd get a demo of a game from someone who didn't know or care about what they were talking about. They'd vaguely describe things and constantly say "this is great!" and "look at this!" at really weird moments, as if they were reading off a list of things to talk about (They were.) The result was I'd feel like I wasn't being given the basic respect as to have someone who gave a fuck enough to learn. I'm not saying you should have a computer science degree, but have an idea of what's going on around you. Reporters will appreciate someone who can write something out in plain english who can talk shop in a more developed way than 'IT'S KINDA LIKE X AND Y MEETS Z.'
To be valuable, we have to at least try and be as into things as those who are writing about them on a daily basis. Otherwise we may as well not bother. We're replaceable. We're not people, we're press releases with legs and the ability to send emails.
Care that the story you're about to send out - if someone runs it - means they're interested in it. Care that they find a place for it. Care that what you're sending has some meaning to them before you send it, not after. You might be wrong. Hell, I'm wrong all the time. But at least I try and connect with the writer on some sort of level beyond "you are meant to run my client's story or i don't get paid anymore."
And if you REALLY don't care, if you REALLY don't find anything you work on or any of the parts of the industry you're in interesting, just get the hell out. Quit now. Save us all your prattle and move into something you care about.