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
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
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
Beverley Kaye is managing director of The Rowland Company