David Meerman Scott Doesn’t Know PR

Do you remember Bo Jackson? He was a star athlete who played professional football and baseball. In the early nineteen-nineties, Bo Jackson and Nike teamed up and produced a well-received advertising campaign. The advertisements touted “Bo knows. . .” everything from sports to fine cars.

Do you know David Meerman Scott? I did not until yesterday when marketingprofs.com posted one of his articles. The article is entitled The New Rules of PR, and I find it amazingly flawed.

To summarize the article, Mr. Scott declares that the way most press releases are wrote needs to be updated. He cites the fact that many wire services now deliver releases to search engines such as Google. In some ways he is correct in his proclamations. Press releases should be written in a more modern fashion. PR practitioners should optimize releases for search engines and include links to a company’s landing page. I deem the remaining sections of the article as bunkum.

Scott believes that today’s press release needs to appeal directly to the consumer. In his article, he states, “. . . your primary audience is no longer just a handful of journalists. Your audience is millions of people [consumers] with Internet connections and access to search engines and RSS readers.” Scott goes even further by declaring, “Don’t just send press releases when ‘big news’ is happening; find good reasons to send them all the time.”

Mr. Scott, the purpose of a press release is to obtain third party endorsement. That is where the true power of PR is held, in the recommendations of trusted media and social contacts. Press releases, by their very nature are designed to speak to third parties. What you are proposing is turning a press release into another form of advertising. Advertisements are designed to speak directly to the consumer, not press releases.

Do advertisements work? Sure they do. But, advertising is viewed with skepticism among most consumers. Why would you want to take a press release, which is intended to get around such skepticism, and turn it into the very thing that it seeks to remedy? It does not make any sense.

Mr. David Meerman Scott, you do not know PR.

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5 Responses to “David Meerman Scott Doesn’t Know PR”

  1. 1 Jonathan Kranz March 1, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    Well, apparently you don’t know either David Meerman Scott or PR.

    For starters, David began his marketing communications career while you were still playing with finger paints in elementary school. While I don’t entirely agree with David’s press release thesis, I do respect his experience and insights. Yeah, he knows PR. The fact that he’s been able to generate so much attention with this one article is proof of it.

    Secondly, PR isn’t restricted to soliciting third-party media endorsements; that’s media relations, a subset (albeit an important one), of the broader work of PR. Your narrow definition would eliminate many valuable tactics, including public speaking, event sponsorship and targeted charitable work, that are proven PR winners.

    And who knows? Direct-to-consumer press releases may become one of those winners.

  2. 2 Michael Morton March 1, 2006 at 7:02 pm

    Thanks for the comment Jonathan.

    Yes, I would agree that I do not know Mr. Scott and that I have a lot to learn about PR.

    My only exposure to anything he has written, as I alluded in my post, was his article I read yesterday. Mr. Scott could very well be a PR guru. If so, that’s great. I never said I did not respect the man. And to be quite honest, I am sure he knows a lot about the industry and that I could learn a lot from him. So if anyone out there thinks I am trying to degrade Mr. Scott, think again. I simply disagree with his opinion and tried to use a well-known saying as a type of hook.

    My point is that press releases are called press releases for a reason. I never narrowly defined PR in my post. I defined a press release. The purpose of a press release, in my limited experience, is to elicit a third pary endorsement. The purpose of PR is to win the minds and hearts of the public. As you point out, there are many ways to achieve this, not by just using a press release.

    My other point is that if we target press releases to speak to the end user (customers), PR crosses the boundary into advertising. Maybe direct-to-consumer press releases do create sales. But once we direct our message to the consumer it becomes advertising. We should then stop calling them press releases and start calling them ads.

    At least that’s the way I see it.

    By the way, I never played with finger paints as a kid. I was a Crayola Crayon kind of kid.

  3. 3 Flackette March 2, 2006 at 5:47 pm

    Wow, Michael, you really got some great dialogue going about this article. I had the very same article lying in my inbox waiting to be read, but as soon as I read your post, I quickly perused it so I could get in on the discussion.

    I do think that Meerman Scott makes an already widely discussed point that the face of press releases is changing to embrace the internet and search engine optimization. This is nothing new. In fact, recently my agency used PR Newswire to release a story and we recieved a bundle of great coverage for it. It is most certainly a useful tool. His other statement that our audience is no longer traditional journalists is also resoundingly true: with the advent of citizen journalism and blogging, not only are audiences beginning to find news on their own, but they are sparking dialogue on it as well.

    However, one point of contention I have with his article is his urging that you should write a release about anything and everything. Yes, maybe this can be an effective tool when you post all current news on the company web site or blog. However, mass bombarding the media with random releases is just going to piss off them off and make them ignore you. Along with the fact that newswires are expensive and it is likely not worth it to distribute every single release through that medium.

    I think it’s important for all of us to remember that Meerman Scott wrote this article from a marketing perspective. As such, he probably approached the article differently because his audience (marketing pros; the web site is called Marketing Profs, after all) has a different understanding of PR than those that are in the thick of the field. Even the language he uses in the article betrays a bent toward a marketing perspective. This isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it’s a great way to try and understand where marketers are coming from when PR gets added to the marketing mix.

    Great post Michael, keep up the good work! It is thoughtful dialogue like this that really sharpens our communicative skills.

  4. 4 Michael Morton March 2, 2006 at 6:33 pm

    Thanks for the kind words Flackette! But most importantly, thank you for the intelligent insight.

    Your point on citizen journalism is definitely food for thought.

  5. 5 David Meerman Scott June 12, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    Hi Michael,

    This week I am hosting a discussion on the IAOC blog on direct-to-consumer press releases. IAOC is the International Association of Online Communicators, a terrific organization that focuses on, well, online communications. Please take a look at the discussion and please jump in — I would love to hear your opinions.




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Who am I ?

My name is Michael Morton. I believe in bringing energy and professionalism into the office, that knowledge is power, that leadership trumps management, that customers are more influential than advertisements, that content is king, and that two heads are better than one. I currently lead the marketing efforts of the Strategic Alliances department of my company. Let’s talk marketing!

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