God bless the press trip, and all who sail in her…

I’ll be honest, I’ve forgotten how much fun press trips can be. It’s been a while since I’ve helped run one. And by press trip, I don’t mean trade shows or conferences, I mean trying to find interesting ways to demonstrate the value that clients can deliver through visual or interactive means. 

I’ve just got back from Berlin. I had the privilege of entertaining some prominent names from the world of B2B technology and telecoms media. A two day extravaganza of briefings, demonstrations, customer case studies, a trip to a datacentre and a chance to see inside a fibre optic cable. 

As is often the case with these trips, they’re organised as a way to share interesting content, experiences and insight, and also to build and strengthen relationships with important influencers. 

Throughout the last 15 years of my PR career, media relations has always been the bedrock upon which all good PR agencies are built. While many agencies have tried to de-emphasise its importance – pointing to the rise of the PESO model and the need to be more self-sufficient in terms of content generation. There is no doubt that the agency model is changing, but I don’t believe it’s happening as fast as many would argue – especially in B2B technology PR or telecoms PR.

Sustaining a strong media relations capability when publications are in decline is hard, no doubt about it. Those that do it well are those that invest in heavy socialising – making a massive effort to get to know the people that are increasingly reluctant to answer their phones. PR is, and always will be, a people business. PR people that are courteous, patient, understanding and knowledgeable of the media and the industry in which they work will always prosper.

I do wonder if PR agencies try and convince clients that media relations isn’t the game in town anymore because it’s too competitive and too challenging. After all, agencies that focus on content generation are always in control of the eventual outcome i.e. the content itself. They don’t need to rely on someone else to share the positives within the stories or clients they promote – they are at the mercy of objective thinking and editorial licence. 

Chatting to the hacks on the trip, it became clear that poor PR practice remains rife. In particular, the practice of sharing canned comment on behalf of clients in response to a ‘breaking news story.’ So called ‘rapid response’ activity has value if it’s carefully targeted to ensure relevant comment, from credible sources, is shared in a timely fashion, when a journalist has asked for it. These days, this has become a scattergun, unsolicited, spamming exercise with an increasing number of companies pushing vanilla, salesy content, tenuously, and occasionally laughably linked to the daily news cycle.   

This type of activity is about ticking boxes on a client SLA. It might yield the odd, occasional result - but it also destroys media confidence in PR and the perceptions of the clients being represented. 

The funny thing is, very few PR people actually spend enough time talking to the media. Even fewer make the effort to meet the people whose attention their clients covet most. Fewer still will challenge their clients to listen to feedback on poor PR practice in order to make the necessary changes. I do fear that the cyclical spamming exercise of canned comment will continue for the foreseeable future. 

To my friends in the media - On behalf of the B2B technology, telecoms and mobile PR community, I apologise. I just wish there were more press trips. 

I do love a good press trip. 

press trip.jpg

Sign up to Congress Crunch series