Do We Need PR?
When I first started blogging, I read a bunch of posts about people being invited to PR events and felt envious, which is no doubt what the posts were about, because otherwise I cannot imagine what else they would be about. The wonders of air freshener? Parties that you have to spend three hours driving across town to get to? Two years later, I still don’t get invited to many PR events, though I do know the reason now has less to do with PR companies not being aware of my existence anymore and more to do with not being certain of the results they will get if they invite me to their events. Though, to be fair, I’m not sure I’m known in the PR World as a mommyblogger world as much as I might be as a personal finance blogger, since I don’t have mom, mommy or mother in my URL, and I’m on more PF blogrolls than I am on mommy blog lists, and I’ve never appeared on any kind of Top mommyblog anything list anywhere, and — let’s face it — it’s unlikely that I ever will.
At any rate, two years later, I still don’t get invited to many PR-related events. But every once in a while, I do, and I was recently invited to a series of events put on by a prestigious and well-known PR firm that is running an extremely well-executed campaign for a highly recognizable brand. And all of that stuff is the kind of thing that when you are starting out you really are envious about because you think that when that happens it means that you are somehow important as a mommyblogger, right? So I went to the event — telling Mr. Right-Click that it made sense to drag Mini across town in the middle of late afternoon LA traffic because this was the kind of thing that was supposed to be important to do, even though while I was doing it I could not really articulate why I thought it would be important, given the fact that I knew it would be unpaid and I was skeptical that this was a brand partnership that would pan out for me, my blog, or my kid for a variety of reasons.
The event was really well-executed and I cannot fault anything about the brand or the PR firm that put it on. They gave me a nice flip video thingy for going. But the thing is, I was right — the product isn’t a fit for me, and my son is too young to use it. I wrote to the PR firm to politely decline further invitations to the upcoming events for the campaign because I cannot see how I can justify spending more time on the project given this mismatch, and told them as much, because it seemed like the right thing to do. No harm, no foul.
But the whole thing got me thinking — even if I loved this product, why exactly do I need to do this kind of thing?
There was recently a big hullabaloo about PR in the mommyblogosphere, and I’m not going to link it because it was mostly boring and these kinds of things happen every other week so it doesn’t really matter, but the takeaway for me was this: why do we go to these PR events, exactly? Because it was nice of them to give me a flip video camera and everything but I already have one of those — it’s an older model, yes, but it still works and I don’t really use that one all that often. I definitely did not need to spend the time in traffic that day — not the fault of the product, but still a big pain in the ass for me. And I knew the event was unpaid, so I suppose I went with the theory that I might make some contacts at the PR firm that might be of worth with other projects in the future (more on that later), and that this would make the time investment worthwhile. But when I got there, everything is about the product at hand, and everything is so localized, I think you would really have to invest way too much time in going to these kinds of events to make that a realistic proposition. Or, perhaps in a city where traffic is less of a time-suck, this might be possible, but in LA it’s just not going to work.
I know there are people who do these kinds of things all the time, and I wonder what they get from them. Have they figured out a way to make them pay that I haven’t? Are they selling the flip cameras on eBay? Or do they just like talking to 22-year-old recent college graduates about technology over boxed wine in rented gallery space in Venice while balloon artists make things for toddlers more than I do? Am I being overly materialistic? I need to see a bottom line or else I need to get out. I want to see what I can get from the PR interaction that I cannot get anywhere else — it doesn’t need to be money, but it has to have value of some kind — information, interaction, connection, something. For me, that is not a flip video and the cultural capital to say that I went. I’m hoping that I’m not alone in this. I’m hoping that somebody can tell me what I’m missing.
Maybe PR Can Help Us Put Together Projects?
Here’s what I’d like to see PR companies do, if they would be willing. The Celtics and the Lakers are going to be in the NBA Finals, and maybe you guys have heard about it. Well, for those of you who don’t know already, my
buddy arch enemy Jonna is a die hard Celtics fan, and I’m (naturally) a Lakers fan. So we’ve been trash talking each other in the weeks leading up to the finals on Twitter, and have kind of developed a following in the process, and now that the Finals are upon us, we’ve got a bunch of people who are literally tuned in to watch us “fight” on Twitter during the Finals series. It’s like our own little Twitter party — except, you know, witty and entertaining and worthwhile for our followers to watch.
So we thought (well, I thought, and Jonna pretty much just went along with, because I’m the capitalist shill pig, and she’s the artiste) — I thought that we should get sponsors involved in this somehow. Now, this is where I thought PR would be useful. If we could just call up some company and be like, we need Glad or Hefty or somebody to sponsor a trash-talking twitter party or Gilette to sponsor this because we’ll cut a bitch, and then they make rain fall, now THAT would be awesome. That would be an awesome way for PR to work for us. I would hire a PR firm for that. I would pay a PR firm a commission for that. Or an ad network. Whomever. Whatever. I’m saying “PR Firm” because I’m guessing they are one of the two entities at present who know who exactly to call at Gillette to make something like that happen. I mean, if I had the time, I’d rather cut out the middleman and call them myself, since it’s my idea. Or, if Federated Media would quit dicking around already and just accept my application (because we all know that is what is going to happen eventually, even if it kills me and them in the process), I could get them to work on some of these side sponsorship projects for me, taking a hefty cut for themselves in the process. But you know — while those two proverbial irons are still resting in the fire, maybe we could talk to PR firms? Because the only other people are advertising firms and my experience with those people is that they are a little bit behind the times on social media and I DON’T HAVE TIME TO TEACH THEM BECAUSE THE FINALS BEGIN ON THURSDAY.
And Finally, Maybe We Do Need PR, But We Need To Hire Them, Not Work For Them
So then I was reading my regular blogs, and came across this tweet, which had then been blogged and reblogged and gleefully reblogged. And who can blame them? Because: 1) pretty much true; and 2) everybody knows that corporate America pays all the attention to the mommies and no attention to anybody else, for inexplicable reasons based on statistics that don’t really and shouldn’t really mean anything. But still, makes me wonder if maybe we should be hiring the PR firms instead of working for them.