Vanilla or your favourite flavour?

6th July 2009

I recently joined a new business networking group which is based on the concept that people will only purchase business services from people that they know, like and trust. I like this concept and wholly endorse the idea of growing business through relationships and recommendations. It’s how PR functions, after all.

After the initial speed dating session, the founder of the group took me to one side and provided me with feedback on my pitch. I’m always open to this since you cannot progress your business without understanding the perspective of your customers and prospects. However, his main premise was that, by introducing myself as high tech B2B PR specialist, I had deselected myself.

In his view PR is vanilla and Phiness should be able to promote any company that approaches it for business. I should be getting the business in first and then figuring out how best to represent that client to their target sector.

He may have a point, but if PR is vanilla, why do companies go through lengthy agency selection processes? Why do they quiz the pitch teams on their existing knowledge of the target press, bloggers, analysts and other key audiences? Why do they place such value on the experience of their prospective PR team and query exactly who would be working on their account?

If PR is vanilla why would well established PR companies have “divisions” devoted to consumer B2C PR, high tech B2B PR, healthcare PR, or financial PR?

Time and time again, journalists from the high tech and business titles have voiced their frustration at being contacted by PRs who plainly haven’t read their publication before picking up the phone or sending a badly-targeted email.

Sector knowledge takes time and experience to build up. If you go with the “vanilla” theory, time pressured writers will continue to suffer clumsy intrusions from ignorant PRs, rather than being offered input from companies that have the relevant experience to provide genuinely useful comment for their articles and their readers.

We all have to start somewhere and of course there will be times when I have to research and contact new publications in order to promote my clients to fresh audiences. But I will do my homework before picking up the phone. I won’t wing it in my quest to offer vanilla services, with plenty of flake.

So, while I welcome new business opportunities, I will continue to provide people with my background and specialism when I introduce myself and my business.

So what’s your PR preference? Would you rather have vanilla, or do you have a favourite flavour?