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July 09, 2010

HIRPS: A new model for PR and influencers

by Josh Bernoff

Here's the problem. "Influencers" -- that's reporters, analysts, bloggers, anyone with an audience -- are targets. PR people are the ones who want to influence them. The PR folks subscribe to databases from companies like Cision and Vocus and then send out hundreds of undifferentiated press releases (it's called "spray and pray"). Some of the pitches are more targeted, but based on my own inbox, most of them aren't.

This system serves both the PR people and the influencers badly. We influencers get clogged inboxes and ignore most of the email; the PR people may reach a few targets but it's 99% waste.

Right now, I'm proposing a way to fix this. I ran my idea by Hans Gieskes, CEO of Cision, and Peter Granat, who is in charge of products there -- they were intrigued, so here goes.

Let's call my system HIRPS -- Highly Relevant Pitching System. My system includes three elements.

Influencer profiles. Influencers would set up their own profiles -- not "who I am" but "what I'm looking for" profiles. The profile would include not just general coverage areas, but very specific details (e.g. "I am interested in new mobile devices" or "I am writing about how marketers measure social media applications.") As an influencer starts doing new research, she would update this -- reporters would update theirs daily or weekly, analysts maybe monthly. Naturally, the profiles would be free.

PR pitching system. The PR people would pay a subscription for access to these profiles. They would then send pitches to the influencers through the system. All pitches must be kept to 1200 characters -- anything further would be through a link to further information.

Ratings for PR people. Every pitch email would include a simple mechanism for the influencer to RATE the pitch for relevance (1-5 stars) and comment on the person doing the pitching.And every pitch would arrive with information about the PR person's rating for relevance.

Hirps
Here's why this is better.

In a system like this, the PR people have the ability (though searching profiles) to find 15 or 20 actual, interested people rather than 1000 who are unlikely to be interested. They are also incented to create a few personal, relevant pitches -- not to spam -- because such pitches would generate high relevance rankings. This system incents behavior that's good for everyone, and allows clever, thoughtful PR people to be rewarded for being clever and thoughtful with a highly visible reputation. (They can carry this with them from job to job, too -- it's good for their careers.)

From the influencer's perspective, we would get fewer of these emails, and each one would be short and personalized, and come with a rating. If I got three or even ten of these a day, with a star rating on each one, I'd be far more likely to read and respond to them, even as I ignored most of the press releases. And if they matched my articulated needs, I'd be delighted. This system also reinforces transparency on the part of influencers -- a little effort about what you are interested in gets rewarded with far more relevant contacts.

Here's how this is different from what we have now.

Cision and Vocus and PR Newswire have influencer profiles but they're not like this because they're designed to serve PR people -- they're profiles of influencers, not by influencers. Cision won't let you see your profile, although you can change it. Vocus makes you call them if the profile is being abused (which they all are). PR Newswire lets you see and edit your profile but it's way too general. None acknowledge that influencers have changing needs. In fact, as they stand now, creating or editing a profile just makes it easier for PR people to spam you.

There are tools sort of like this now. HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is designed to hook reporters up with sources (which their founder Peter Shankman told me are as likely to be small businesses as they are larger PR shops). But when you sign up a source, you get undifferentiated email with dozens of entries about what reporters are seeking. This doesn't use the social intelligence of the net, it doesn't scale, and it doesn't include ratings. HARO was just acquired by Vocus.

Profnet, like HARO, is focused on "experts," (especially academics), not PR people. You have to pay to join as an expert. It's now owned by PR Newswire.

I'm sure I'll hear from startups who've done something like this, but frankly, it's the incumbents like Cision who can do this best. They start with tens of thousands of PR customers for their databases; Cision already has indexed a million influencers. More than any startup, Cision or one of its competitors can leverage these connections to make this work. And since it will know what pitches people are rating highly and responding to, it can improve the quality of its database.

This won't end irrelevant PR email. But it could certainly create a lot more relevance in our inboxes. What do you think?


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Comments

Jodi Echakowitz

Josh, you offer up a very interesting concept and I do like the sounds of it. The problem is that it's a band aid solution.

While your suggestion will certainly make the lives of influencers and PR people easier (especially since profiles will be more specific about the influencers true needs), the problem is that it doesn't address the inherent issue of PR folks being lazy and not willing to take the time to do their homework.

Before pitching, I take a lot of time to research what the influencer has written about, what their interests are, what they typically include in their stories, etc so that I can pitch them appropriately. But unfortunately this is not the case with a lot of other PR folks.

Your proposed system gives these PR folks who want a quick fix an easy way out.

Just my .02 cents worth...

@JodiEchakowitz

Josh Bernoff

@Jodi, I hope it does help solve that problem because the lazy PR people you describe would get low ratings.

Kevin Pedraja

Josh, I like this idea a lot. As a PR person, it bugs me to be tarred with the same brush as those who are too lazy or inexperienced to know who and how to pitch. I once proposed a system that was a roughly similar: PR people would submit pitches and embargo dates and influencers would have early access so long as they never broke an embargo. Influencers could see pitches on topics they cared about and ignore everything else. Your system is probably more realistic.

Frank Strong

Hi Josh, this is very interesting, and this post will certainly contribute to our internal discussions. Of course, as both a user and the PR pro for Vocus, I'd rather characterize Vocus as a CRM system for PR pros. That said, we should probably do a briefing sometime and of course we would value your input alongside that of Zach Hofer-Shall. Personally, I'm a big fan yours, read your blog all the time and your book ages ago!

Charity Lacey

Hi Josh,

I've actually brought something like what you describe to market. http://youplusmemarketing.com/blog/?p=20

The purpose of Iwantbloggers.com & youwantbrands.com is to bring together interested influencers together with the brands, companies & agencies that are seeking them. The profiling system is based on market demographics and the upgraded profile has exactly what you describe in its Preferred profiling system. Each advocate/influencer will have the option of telling the searching party a short narrative & keywords that would match them more succinctly.

This would eliminate the hours of search engine researching to find the "right" advocate/influencer so that the vetting & relationship building can take priority.

A note about "lazy" PR people: regardless of the tools available, a lazy PR rep will continue to "spray & pray", shotgun or SPAM pitch.

About Cision vs start-up: while Cision may have the bandwidth to explore the option - just like it's other lists - I don't believe it has the agility to make the necessary changes based on the ever-changing market. I've spoken with other PR professionals that use Cision, Vocus, etc., they don't keep the most up-to-date files on media outlets and reporters. With blogs coming and going constantly, the system need to be dynamic.

Iwantbloggers.com also has a rating system with a search ranking. Those working with the advocate/influencer can rate their experience with the influencer. The influencer can provide feedback regarding their experience with the company/brand/agency that they worked with as well.

Sounds like we're on the same wave length....

Charity Lacey

By the way, find me on twitter:
@youplusmeCEO
@Iwantbloggers
@YouwantBrands

Todd Defren

Interesting approach.

Would the influencers take the time to fill out those profiles? It would be nice to think so. I tend to doubt it, however. "Laziness" cuts both ways.

Also I'd foresee a need to let PR pros with low ratings respond, i.e., no offense intended but just as there are bad PR people, there are bad influencers out there. For example, we've seen influencers make highly inappropriate advances on female staff members. God forbid this HIRPS system could be a leverage point for those a-holes, eh? ("Go out for drinks with me or I'll give you a low HIRPS score.") What recourse would the PR pro have to fend off inappropriately bad scores?

How many GOOD pitches would it take for a newbie who made a few initial mistakes to rehabilitate their HIRPS score? Or are PR pros never allowed to make any mistakes?

See how complicated this gets, and how quickly?

Rex Riepe

The problem of ending PR spam is, to put it lightly, kafkaesque. Adding more complexity to it isn't going to help.

I once created a site designed to help with the problem (IvyLees, now defunct). It was met with a complete lack of enthusiasm on both sides. Influencers saw it as opening themselves to a new channel of spam. PR folks just didn't like admitting there was a problem-- Either they were the "good" PR pros who didn't see why they should need to be a part of it, or they were "bad" PR pros who just saw it as a waste of time, since it didn't help them spam more.

I agree with Charity on startups. This level of change is only ever brought about by startups. Yes, the resident champs of the industry have more resources... but that's just more to put at risk.

I also agree with Todd: The chicken and egg problem of startups is huge here, and that's before you even get to the mechanics of how it would actually work. But like I said: Kafkaesque.

Rachel Kay

I have to agree with Todd and Rex, that in theory this is great idea but I doubt it’s really feasible. I can’t see many press contacts electing to open themselves up to more PR outreach, and this system wouldn’t necessarily reduce any of the unwanted spam in their in-boxes. In addition, I shudder at a rating system for PR professionals. That’s sets good PR people and well as bad up for some negativity that can’t be easily erased. I can’t honestly see too many reporters taking the time to give a gold star to good PR people, but I can see some rotten tomatoes sprouting. Sometimes the ratings might be completely justified, and sometimes they just might not. In addition, nowadays with pop-up web journalism happening rampantly, I think it’s just as important to qualify the influencer.

I love the concept, I just wonder if there’s a meet-in-the-middle idea out there.

Tricia @Night Owl Mama

In regards to influences filling out profiles: I certainly would take the time. Especially if opportunity of promotions that will fit our profile needs would be met. This would make the process for both parties easier in my humble opinion. The rating system doesn't sound appropriate to me. Even though a rating system for Bloggers exist. It does in our #'s but that is not always fair of our capabilities either. A comment section as how PR was to work with after a campaign may work(with a section for PR to reply after. Some Blog communities that I belong to have such a comment section about those we have worked with, on the other hand we should treat each case as unique as each promotion or campaign is unique, one may not have the same circumstances that another encountered.
Thank you for the interesting post

barak kassar

good thinking.... feels a bit like he InMail rating system on LinkedIn... where your mails are rated and everybody fills out bios.. it might be interesting to try this concept out within the linkedin ecoystem and see how it plays

Ludovic Leforestier

Josh,

Great idea, in theory.
In practice, a great way to weed out the next big thing via a consensus driven rating system. Unfortunately, while crowdsourcing can help spotting trends, by definition it weeds out originality.

Ted Shelton

Josh

Let's face it, as some of your other comments have more obliquely pointed out, influencers don't want unsolicited information. No one is going to "sign up" to get more crap. The whole pitch process is bankrupt.

I was involved in a project exactly like this several years ago at Technorati, gee let's give marketers a database of victims err bloggers that they can spam err provide info that matched their interests. We talked to a lot of bloggers and learned something important:

It's about relationships not pitches

Shame on you for not knowing this already and holding Cision's feet to the fire. I was, like you, getting a full inbox from (otherwise well meaning) PR people and I started asking them how they got my name. Cision.

These guys prey on the desperation of PR people being held to the fire of "results" and needing a cheap way to deliver. Guess what guys, make it cheap and you fail, there are no shortcuts to developing meaningful relationships with your market.

Cision and others violate a basic ethical tenant of the social web when they sells list of names to PR firms. They serve clients that piss off 99% of the people on the lists they compile. They are destroying relationships every day. They do a disservice to bloggers and to PR people and to society at large.

Please think more deeply about this. How do you reform PR practices, not tweak how they "spray and pray" but how the really become part of real and deep persistent relationships between companies and their markets?

Best regards,

Ted Shelton, CEO
Open-First

Elizabeth Thomas

Josh, this is a fantastic idea. I've been on both sides of this coin, influencer/blogger and PR pro, so I know just how frustrating those wasted pitches are for clients and PR practitioners. I would love to see this concept put into practice. Consider me sold!

Josh Bernoff

To be clear, everybody:

This will not end or even change the amount of PR spam -- at least not unless it catches on big time. But I believe reporters, analysts, and others with an interest in covering real news would welcome more relevant pitches.

Rachel says "I can’t see many press contacts electing to open themselves up to more PR outreach." You know, we're open whether we like it or not. Our email addresses are in these databases. And this could not possibly increase the amount of PR spam I get, and I know I get lest than a a reporter with a broader coverage area must get. I just think we need a new system to compete with, and possibly improve on, the old one.

Ted, as for your comment -- of course I know it's about relationships. But relationships need to start somewhere. A relevant pitch is a good way to start.

I don't know how I am supposed to "hold Cision's feet to the fire." Complaining that people are evil rarely works. Showing them a better way can work.

I'm trying to find a model that will help us all. And I'm not trying to profit from it. You can call me naive, claim it's unfixable, call PR people or database companies lazy or irresponsible, and call journalists the same -- and none of that will be anything more than a lot of noise. Or you can suggest a way to improve things. That's all I've tried to do.

Benjamin Koe

I like the idea. But having worked as both a journalist and a PR guy, I know the good people who write for the press won't put in effort to update their profiles. In many ways, our influencers expect the PR folk to research on them and give them what they need.

Following this thought. Why not modify the profile section into a wiki that is not updated by the influencers alone, but also by PR folk?

This may also help influencers realize that they are not as popular and then they may begin to contribute as well.

Ludovic Leforestier

Ted,

Totally agree with you, should have spelt out the hyperlink of my post:
http://analystrelations.org/2010/06/14/ar-and-social-media-its-the-interaction-stupid/

Stacy Lukasavitz

I like the idea but the problem I see with it is in vetting who is an "Influencer" and who is not. Many people that are truly Influencers probably don't want to open themselves up to more pitches, as pointed out above, and many people who are NOT Influencers would likely sign up to a) appear to be more influential and credible than they really are, or b) hopefully gain influence by simply being there.

Also, depending on the market, some people are more influential in some areas than others. I know that right now "influence" is a hot topic, and how to measure it, but I think that if this idea were to be implemented, there should be a way to gauge who really IS influential and worthy of being in the database to begin with. Else, you'll end up back where you started.

Thoughts?

Charlie Kondek

Great idea, Josh, and one close to my heart because I'm a PR person that specializes in media relations, specifically what we used to call "blogger outreach" and has now evolved into outreach to influencers of all kind.

You mentioned you'd hear from startups with ideas like these but you might be surprised to learn our big ol' PR firm, MS&L (soon to be repositioned as MSL Group) has built a proprietary database of influencers we call the Multiloguer, recognizing that the media landscape we live in is neither monologue nor merely dialogue but multiple stream multilogue. The Multiloguer does a lot of what you describe above, although I love your rating idea. As of now, only people in our network of companies and some clients use it.

And that's where the Multiloguer really succeeds, and is the part of your idea where I could maybe shed some additional insight; namely, the real problem with off beat or bad pitching is the people. In my view, a tool is only as good as the craftsperson that wields it, and while what you're recommending here is a fantastic improvement over existing tools, what really has to change is the way we PR types as a whole practice our craft. Our Multiloguer not only catalogues influencers and sorts them by category, region, publishing platforms and interest but it tracks who at my agency has a relationship with what influencer and what that influencer's preferences are in the type of outreach they want to receive. The level of human being involvement is high, and not just one human or even a handful but professional people all across our network of offices within the Publicis Group. So, done well, I in Ann Arbor, Michigan, can make a "friendly" that will be of use to, say, a colleague in San Francisco. Said colleague can find an influencer in the Multiloguer and call me up to either make the introduction or block outreach to that person because it would be unwanted. It's a web-based tool, so users all over the world can (and do) collaborate on it in real time.

I'm a big, big believer in training, coaching, and continued involvement with leadership in what is all too often seen in the PR biz as a junior function. Pitching is our bread and butter and it's the people, IMO, that need to get better, not necessarily the tools.

Although our tool is really damn cool (/shameless plug).

charlie dot kondek at mslworldwide dot com

Victoria Harres

Josh, Your blog post certainly provides much food for thought and I will definitely make sure it is part of the conversation here at PR Newswire as we plan the future of products such as MEDIAtlas and PRNJ. Our goal is to help PR folks 'target' influencers appropriately and we are always looking for ways to make targeting easier for our clients.

Something that gives influencers some control over pitches they receive is PRNJ: PR Newswire for Journalists http://www.prnewswire.com/media Here an influencer can choose to sign up for very specific types of news releases depending on what they cover. My team is always ready to help anyone that needs a hand in setting up their profile to receive only content relevant to their current needs and at a frequency they choose (victoria dot harres at prnewswire.com). This profile can be updated at any time, and also ties in with ProfNet and an extensive database of multimedia assets. All free to journalists, bloggers, and other influencers.

Mel Webster

Good PR professionals do their homework and never use the "Pray and spray" spamming method to distribute news. Unfortunately, there are too few good PR professionals. Common sense and simple research would eliminate most of these issues.

I appreciate the effort that went into this. However, like a couple of others mentioned, I am not sure the influencers would take the time to either enter the information in the first place or update it if they did enter it. Second, the lazy, bad PR professionals would find some way to take advantage of this and do dumb things to once again irritate the influencers.

Josh Bernoff

Stacy: these days, anyone can be an influencer. These databases are full of them. PR people are actually pretty good at figuring out how much influence they have, but that's a good way to enhance this sort of product.

Charlie, the MSL tool is interesting, but doesn't meet the influencers' needs since the influencer has no role in updating profiles -- you've just made it easier for your people to do targeting. And of course it's not available outside MSL.

Victoria -- you're still serving PR people far better than influencers. It's nice that you have these capabilities, but until you treat influencers as "clients" I'm skeptical.

Charlie Kondek

Josh, you're right. We're currently on Multiloguer 2.0 and believe 3.0 would have that level of functionality. You could self-enroll, self-update, and tweak the info about what's available to you. You could even opt in or out of brand specific spam-cannons; we're not big on spray and pray but if you have enough people opting in it might be an option. As it stands, we do all the info upkeep on the PR end. "Do not offer this person anything but organic foods" etc.

BTW, it can be available outside MSL, not so much as a white labeled product but as what we've been calling a gray label.

Victoria Harres

Josh, treating influencers as clients is very much my business as Director of Audience Development. My team of former journalists is tasked with helping PR Newswire's paying clients understand how to reach the right audience for their content and avoid "spray & pray" tactics (this is always at the forefront of these conversations).

Can we serve influencers better? I am positive we can. That is why I am very interested in suggestions like yours and welcome any input from our influencer clients. Hopefully one of these days you'll be able to tell me you're no longer skeptical :)

Sam Gronner

I think this is a flawed concept for reasons stated by others, namely, 1) reluctance by "influencers" to take the time to be engaged via this closed platform and 2) the many unsophisticated (OK, let's call them lazy) publicists (I dare not refer to them as PR professionals) who will continue to "spray & pray."

But in keeping with this alliteration, I am further concerned about the pay-to-play model being proposed. Essentially, you are asking me to pay to engage in conversation with an influencer when I can do so for free via Twitter, Facebook, or other social media.

When "influencers" engage in social media, one presumes that they are there to listen as much as to report or analyze. When a PR professional contributes helpful, informed, timely news or trends, (at times serving a client interest or agenda), it constitutes a perfectly legitimate and honest means for delivering a relevant pitch; it should meaningfully contribute to the dialogue and add context or a fresh perspective.

There is no quick fix to long-term relationship building between PR professionals and the media we try to inform about news or trends important to our clients. I'm afraid the idea of a closed platform, with an entry fee, is no substitute for what's always been true to the practice of PR. After all, the "R" factor is all about the relationship.

@gronnerpr on Twitter

Andrew Fowler

I could talk for days about this issue. I built an online system a few years back that did all of this: encouraged journalists to fill out their own profiles to help PR people understand and target them better; a vetting system to ensure that PR people send high quality pitches, a rating system to encourage good behavior etc. Cision even contacted me about it after it first launch. It's a great idea and I still think it would do wonders for PR if it was adopted as an industry standard. Unfortunately, laziness on both the journos and PRs part still rules supreme (as Defren so rightly points out in the comment above.) I will be happy to talk to anyone about this. If you want to see what I built, you can check it out here: http://vetting.newsvetter.com

Brett Safron

Josh, when Hans and Peter relayed your conversation and mentioned this upcoming post, I knew it would spawn a nice dialogue, highlighting many of the issues we hear often from constituents on all sides of the discussion. Not many surprises on the angles being taken in many of the responses so far.

But the angle I am most curious about was everyone's feeling around the actual ratings system you suggest. While the concept certainly would shine the light on the most egregious offenders, I don't think a few negative responses would necessarily have to banish someone for life, as some people have inferred. I mean, how many purchases have you made on eBay from sellers who have flawless records? Not many, I am sure, because you simply cannot please all the people all the time and any such type of ratings system should result in a fair representation for anyone receiving a fair volume of ratings, with users of such a system having to recognize that no one is going to be perfect.

Rather than breaking out into a Cision commercial now and highlighting all the great implementations of these and other similar ideas we have in the works, I will say that we do recognize the value in this concept and are sincerely interested in facilitating better, less obtrusive and more accurate means of bringing the right pitches together with the right influencers.

Thanks for throwing your ideas out there for this discussion. You know, if this whole Forrester start-up thing doesn't work out, we would love to talk to you! :-)

Stuart Bruce

On the surface appears to be an appealing idea, but I'm not convinced it would work in practice. Would 'influencers' really take the time to fill in their profiles properly? I very much doubt it. They might not even be able to as if you're too specific you risk missing stuff you are actually interested in. Using the 'system' to pitch is another big no, 'pay to play' potentially excludes some of the best operators - boutique consultancies, freelance, small in-house operators etc. The ratings system would have to cut both ways, PRs being able to rate influencers - for example are they always honest about their intentions? Would also need an appeal system, or is it three srikes and your'e out? Seems to me it's simply an excuse for laziness. If you do your homework and research who you're pitching and do individual, personal pitches then the system doesn't really offer any benefits. Good PR people already only pitch 20 'very likely' influencers rather than 100 off a list. Finally, the quality of information in terms of 'interests' of media databases is absolutely terrible and I'd have no faith in them getting it right. That's why there are so many bad pitches, the databases are useless and expensive, but lazy PR people rely on them.

Jack Monson

Josh,

The system as you describe exists today with one exception. Instead of relying on journalists, bloggers, and other influencers to maintain a profile, MatchPoint focuses on their recently published work. The PR pro's story idea, pitch, or news release is used to uncover the journalists most likely to find that story relevant.

There's no "spray & pray"... PR users may engage an influencer one-to-one and share a note as well as video, photos, releases, etc all through MatchPoint. Engaging through the interface helps the user track the history and builds an archive for reporting and measurement.

The journalists/bloggers have the ability to rate or block any PR users they deem unhelpful.

Hundreds of PR pro's are now using MatchPoint as an alternative to outdated databases. When you target by content, you know who is writing about your topic and where he/she currently is.

I would love to have you and your readers try it out and let me know your thoughts. Login here for free temporary access:
http://www.prmatchpoint.com/

Thanks,
@jackmonson

Charlie Kondek

Lot of food for though here.

By the way, I really must stick up for PR people (like myself, although I came up through social media) in at least one respect: we say spray n' pray is "lazy" but the fact is most PR people I know work like mad and practice "spray n' pray" probably due to time pressures and other constraints than any conscious malevolence. Truth is both influencers and outreachers are busy as hell these days, as has been noted

Scott Gould

Very good - thinking it through!

Travis Van

Josh,

I'd argue that the single greatest problem with the pitching processs is the infrequency with which PR people actually READ authors / analysts prior to contacting them.

If you look at the entire pie chart of how in-house and agency side folks spend their time, unfortunately it's a very small slice of the pie that tends to be focused on deep engagement with author content. That's the perversity. It's a very special category of PR folks that have the intellectual curiosity / responsibility to truly dissect the historical content about x- topic. But therein lie all the necessary clues WRT how to participate in the dialogue (and the very best PR people are unsurprisingly the ones that spend the most time - gasp - reading).

While your proposal makes sense at face value, any system that relies on journalists opting in and rating pitches I believe is a difficult conquest. Especially questionable is that on a large scale authors would voluntarily supply ongoing info to the same media directories that have been producing (despite their 'guns don't kill people, people kill people' defense) mass spam for many years now.

The single greatest thing that PR people can do to excel in their media outreach (AND keep author inboxes free of irrelevant clutter) is to be prolific, conscientious readers of the content itself.

I believe that you will continue to see more companies like ours (www.itdatabase.com) - focused on creating meta data about content, to facilitate more rich PR engagement with that content.

Our belief is that one of the reasons why the tools you reference are so porous from a data perspective is that they are on a fool's errand, data-wise. We're focused singularly on the tech industry, and we're tracking tens of thousands of articles and blog posts daily. How can horizontal media directories do justice to author content with lame bios that are harvested by people (typically with zero tech industry experience) via phone, written, and then out of date within weeks? These tools have a very fickle relationship with the most meaningful source of data about authors - their content. Thus if you work in-house at, say, an integration vendor and you go into these tools you reference and search for terms like "SOA" or "enterprise service bus" or "web services" - you get very few results, and among those few results is a high percentage of false positives (because a bio that may have been true six weeks ago no longer is for that author because they've shifted focus). These horizontal media databases sell the illusion of publicity riches - but the data just flat out is a decade behind the intelligence of the PR users that work in specialized fields (especially the tech industry). People run of out of time (with their PR deadlines), and resort to desperate spray and pray because those tools utterly fail to provide useful insights based on the actual author content.

Where PR directories should be / are going is more analytics / BI-style meta data that indexes the actual content at a much richer level ... which ties back to enabling PR people to more conscientiously track content in their category of interest.

Sorry for the late night rant. Crying baby, delirium, etc.

Btw: you might find this report we put out a few months ago about tech analysts in the news interesting (http://memos.itdatabase.com/index.php?report=an).

Enjoyed the post!

Tim Hurley

Josh,

Excellent post and a new perspective on an age-old problem.

Like the concept.

Don’t love the acronym.

Don’t know ANYONE at firms I have worked at, clients I have represented who has ever pitched 1,000 editors/influencers at the same time.

The rating concept is really interesting. If a .300 hitter is considered a star in major league baseball (failing seven times out of ten) what would be an equivalent rating for PR pros to be considered the best in their profession? ????

@thurley

Patrick Garmoe

Josh,
I've been on both sides - Journalist and PR - and feel like these sort of sites aren't all that successful for two key reasons - both having to do with human nature.

As a journalist, I know whether or not I update a profile somewhere, the pitches will come, and I'll always have more story ideas than time to write them. I'll FEEL like it's easier to simply delete bad pitches, than fill out a profile, that may or may not help eliminate pitches.

On the PR side, though it makes sense to really hone in on some key reporters, the truth is it's easier and makes PR people feel better to hit 1,000 reporters and hope to win the lottery, than to put 90 percent effort into 40 targets, only to have all those people not write about the story. PR people are going to think, we'll "What If"I had just hit the 1,000?

Thanks,
Patrick
@Garmoe

Chuck Tanowitz

Hi Josh,

This is a great idea and one that I've heard before in different incarnations.

The problem, however, isn't with the information provided but in the abilities of the PR folks. This won't solve that.

If you look through the Cision database (or any media database) you'll find a series of influencers who tell the person calling "don't call me, just email." But then in practice you can, in fact, call them if you have a good reason for doing so.

It's the difference between information and knowledge. What you're proposing is interesting, but also just adds more information. We have all the information we need. We can read blogs, articles, Tweets or watch videos the influencers put out. We can gather as much information as we like to make intelligent decision as to who would be most interesting in the information we're pitching. Yet, too many PR folks choose not to do that.

If influencers start writing their own profiles I predict that they will use it to put up barriers, open themselves up. They'll try to scare off PR pitches, not attract better ones.

I'd rather see influencers start talking about the firms that "spray and pray." Open the discussions on that side a bit more so when companies are making PR decisions they go to the agencies and individuals doing things properly.

Account Deleted

Josh,

Now matter what process, what system, bla, bla, the best thing for a PR person to do is to read the content of a perspective journalists, analyst or blogger and make your pitch accordingly.

Here's a recent post:
http://www.alanweinkrantz.com/?sort=&search=how+i+pitch

David Spinks

Really interesting concept Josh.

Do you think that by providing businesses with as much demographic information about the bloggers, and their readers, that this would make for more targeted pitches?

Obviously, in a system that requires writers to update their preferences, there will be limited resources for PR agencies and so they'll be less likely to pay for the service.

Would a service that provides as much information about a writer as possible, and show the writers' personal preferences wherever possible be a better solution?

I'm not sure what a rating system would really solve. Regardless of a PR person's ranking, they can still pitch the writers. True, the writers could use it as a guideline for which emails to open, but it doesn't really solve the problem.

Would love to chat more about this if you're available.

david at scribnia dot com if you are.

David, Scribnia

Rick Weber

Anything to improve the flawed system we have now is encouraged and appreciated. There is never a full fix for a problem of this magnitude but it is a welcome step in the right direction that should be encouraged.

My biggest concern with the model is, who determines what an influencer is, when they morph into that role, how their influence grows or shrinks over time and when is the most apporpriate time to reach out to them? Influencers change and evolve daily. Yes, some uber influencers will remain at the top of their respective categories but when do they stop being a blogger and start being a journalist?

The concept is right. The question remains, how do you accurately target who you want with who wants you in a world of constantly fluxuating influence?

Emmanuel Vivier @ BuzzParadise.com

Really interesting idea Josh. Since 2006, at BuzzParadise.com, we have setup a blogger outreach platform (PR 2.0, sponsored posts and sponsored video/content seeding) that gathers 8000 bloggers in 12 countries. The principle looks a lot like HIRPS (outside the rating system that would be a great idea).
After more than 300 outreach campaigns from brands such as Chanel, Reebok, Renault, L'Oréal, Passoa, Guerlain,... I have just a few points regarding your idea:
- No platform or system should accept 100% of the PR agencies and brand request (we do refuse around 25% of the request). Selectivity is required to avoid overwhelming the community with bad pitches.
- Segmentation and targeting is key to make sure bloggers and influencers receive very targeted invitation (topic, type of content,...) which means beside all the technology, human sensitivity is still required
- Sending only info (not to say advertising information) to bloggers is TOTALLY USELESS. Bloggers are not journalists and are not paid by a newspaper to report. Therefore it is all about creating a bespoke product testing, brand experience or to sponsor them (with a clear disclosure)... sending press release is just useless...
- Metrics & measurement are becoming key. A good platform should be able to precisely assess the ROI of a campaign. We are tagging each bloggers members of our community and can now exactly the number of views of a particular post or the time readers have been exposed to the campaign. Number of viewed videos and clicks is available to from a live dashboard all along the campaign. There is no success without clear measure.
- Rating is interesting but how do you deal with the fact that different people from the same brand or agency can connect a particular blogger. One stupid person can damage the whole organization rating… Should all the organization be ban then…

Jeremy Porter

There's little motivation for a company like Cision or Vocus to build such a solution.

They are focused on helping customers do even more mass communication (granted, on a one-to-one basis via social media).

Your idea is great, and there are a lot of people out there working on products that will do some of the things you reference (hint, hint)... but you're missing a key point.

I don't think we can continue down the 'interruption pr' path, where PR professionals constantly pitch in hopes of finding success. Rather, I think PR pros need better solutions for packaging their information - presenting how they can be better sources.

Journalist Ratings/Feedback and/or a Reputation Score should be big pieces of that. Journalists need better expert research tools as well. That's how this stuff needs to evolve.

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