COMMENT: PLATFORM; Human skills must bridge the technology gap

Technology is exciting the PR industry but practitioners must not forget how to sell ideas to journalists, says Beverley Kaye

Technology is exciting the PR industry but practitioners must not forget

how to sell ideas to journalists, says Beverley Kaye



Where would we be without technology? Its value as a resource in the

efficient implementation of modern day PR is undoubted.



These days none of us can afford to be technophobes. That said, I’m

still astonished at the levels of excitement which innovations such as

electronic press kits or having a web site on the Internet manage to

create a great stir throughout the industry. Suddenly everyone feels

that they need to latch on to ‘the next big thing’ in case they are seen

as anything less than cutting edge. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big

technology fan.



However, I’d like to sound a word of caution. Let’s not be dazzled by

the bright lights of the technological revolution and believe that

technology is PR. It’s not - it’s simply a tool which helps make our

lives much easier. It can never, and should never, replace the human

touch. I sometimes feel that technology is beginning to put a gap

between us and the journalists with whom we should be in daily contact.

I hope that I’ll be proved wrong in the future about this subject but

currently the signs aren’t looking too good.



I’m a great advocate of e-mail and encourage executives at Rowland to

use it to deliver information to the media. However, e-mail is only a

tool - the skill is selling the story to the journalist whether in the

form of face-to-face selling or finding angles which are appealing to

that one journalist on particular day.



Learning those selling skills is not easy and it takes a lot of practice

and training. And yes, it is much easier to fool ourselves into thinking

that a journalist will call us if they’re interested in the story. Now

let’s be honest. How many of you really believe that? At the very least

don’t you agree that it’s important to make contact with the journalist

to establish that they’ve got the material? And whether they’re going to

use it, or whether there’s anything else you can do to make it more

appealing?



I can’t understand why the thought of speaking to a journalist should

strike fear into the heart of the public relations executive. After all,

they want what we’ve got. We shouldn’t allow or encourage this

demonisation of journalists. Surely it is vital to understand not only

what makes them tick, but also how their programme or publication works?

Otherwise how will we know about the new opportunities which might be

available to our clients.



It’s not good enough to wrap ourselves in the misguided thought that the

technology which delivers the story (whether it’s the Internet or CD-

ROM) replaces the need for human contact. Technology is obviously a

central part of any communications programme but it will never compete

with the power of the ‘sell’ in human form.



So, as media relations hits the Information Super Highway, let’s not

forget that without the human touch, not only would our press dealings

become more distant, but we would also lose an important source of

‘inside’ knowledge, information which enhances the achievement of any

successful media relations campaign. It is vital that we do not let our

trainees forget this important fact.



Imagine the thought 50 years on where an industry continues to grow in

number but there’s just a handful of consultants that personally speak

and meet journalists. Let’s make sure this nightmare scenario never

happens.



Beverley Kaye is managing director of The Rowland Company



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