PR Whiteboard

5 Things PR Agencies Stopped Doing

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Years ago it was a simpler time for PR firms. You’d land a client, find the right news hook, set up a media tour and hit the road to visit analysts and journalists. Then, you’d count up all the news clippings, put them in a big, shiny book, and slam it on the table during the next quarterly agency review. The louder the sound of the book, the better the odds of continuing the relationship.

Sure, that’s an oversimplification, but it’s not far off from the way it was. Here are some basic things about PR agency life that have changed in the past 10 years:

Media tours – The days of booking massive, expensive, travel-intensive road shows are largely over. These days a proper tour can be conducted over the phone or Skype, with the occasional in-person briefing sprinkled in when it makes sense geographically. We still value face-to-face meetings, but these days reporters mostly prefer to skip the pageantry and just hear the news on a simple call. In 2014, speed matters.

Ad Value Equivalency – It used to be the Gold Standard of PR measurement. If a PR firm landed a client a story in, say, The New York Times, what would that same physical space cost to place an ad? If an ad for a similar sized space in the paper would cost $4K, the thinking went, then the PR placement was worth the same amount. Of course, it’s a nonsense metric. Why? Because if your client sells agricultural supplies, and the buyers of those supplies primarily read Horticulture Magazine, your piece in the NYT is worth very little in terms of building revenue. Today, there are myriad ways to track PR success that are actually tied to business outcomes.

Clip books – As I mentioned in my intro, clip books showcasing a PR firm’s hard work are a thing of the past. For one thing, they kill too many trees and drain too many color printer cartridges (which, unlike everything else in this post, refuse to die!). More importantly, the clips themselves matter less than the audience reached, the engagement achieved, and the lead flow resulting from those efforts.

Binding machines – These monstrosities were used routinely to create – surprise! – giant clip books for clients. They were also commonly used to secure the pages of presentations, reports, etc. To be fair, these are not entirely dead, but it’s becoming rarer and rarer to print out and bind anything (you dodged a bullet, interns!)

Press kits – Veteran PR pros remember traveling to Comdex and other major conferences with a box brimming with press kits for clients. Tons of collateral. It would invariably sit in the little cubbies marked with the client’s name. The PR person’s job was to “check the press kits” throughout the conference, to be sure they weren’t all taken by reporters. Trouble is, only the hottest couple of companies at the event would see their press kits dwindle. Everyone else carted home the useless kits on very tired feet. These days? USB drives will suffice.

What other PR tools from yesteryear to you recall?