The Golden PR Rolodex: Christmas Miracle or Myth?

Weslie Oeftering
The Golden PR Rolodex: Christmas Miracle or...

Back in 2014 the President of Swyft, Dave Manzer, wrote a piece about the 5 PR Myths that perpetuate throughout tech startups. Four years later, I figured I would take the opportunity to revisit and expand upon one particular PR myth that just won’t quit: the Golden Rolodex.

PR professionals don’t just have a nice list of all the good boys and girls at major media outlets who will magically make any story about your company their top priority. In other words, PR professionals are not Santa Claus.

Maybe the incredible growth LinkedIn has seen since reaching half a BILLION users in 2017 is what has kept the Golden Rolodex myth alive and well after all these years, but like Dave said in his 2014 piece:

“The dirty secret about PR these days is that WHO you know matters much less than WHAT you know.”

A more accurate (but still jolly) way to think of PR professionals is more like Santa’s elves and reindeer rather than Ol’ Saint Nick himself.

Like Santa’s elves, PR agencies work hard to find and sort through the best journalists and media outlets that suit both the client’s needs and the outlet’s. Unlike Santa’s elves, however, the way PR pros find, sort and deliver isn’t through the magic of Christmas (i.e., a golden rolodex). We do it through the art of media relations.

Media relations is two pronged. First, you must understand your client’s industry and their marketing objectives. Then, you must decide on the form of media (print, tv, ad, magazine story, press release, etc.) that best matches both the industry and the needs of the client.

After planning the media, we wrap up a carefully crafted news angle about our client with a nice bow and pitch it to the media outlets. These outlets are thoughtfully chosen based on what topic(s) they usually cover and how they usually cover them.

Just like the names on Santa’s naughty and nice list change every year (or even more frequently in this ever-shifting media landscape), so do the names on the media list for each and every client. Each media list for each client is started from scratch since an agency’s client roster is so diverse.

It makes no sense to have a powerful list of your personal “go-to” contacts because most journalists and media outlets have a particular niche that more than likely won’t fit the needs of all your clients. It’s more about finding a good fit. You wouldn’t pitch a story about a make-up company’s new product line to Cranes Today magazine (apologies to any make-up loving crane operators out there!) You’d pitch to Cosmopolitan, Vogue, or Glamour.

Sorry to be a grinch, but if it were as easy as just dropping a potential news story about a client on the doorstep of any news outlet, or even at an outlet where we’ve known people for years, then we wouldn’t have a job!

While facing the reality that the Golden Rolodex is a myth might be a tough pill to swallow, you are way better off knowing what to expect when searching for an agency, or examining their claims. Any PR agency that sells itself to you based on all it’s purported “connections” at media outlets has not yet learned to put “what” they know over “who” they know – a crucial misstep in our heavily demassified media marketplace.

Fear not, though! Once your PR agency has guided your company’s sleigh tactfully enough to get a story picked up by the right outlet, it sure can feel golden. Just be careful not to mix up the two.

About Weslie Oeftering: Weslie is a student at The University of Texas at Austin and Swyft’s resident PR and marketing intern. She supports clients with social media, blogging, and tech PR activities. Swyft is a top PR firm in Austin with offices in Denver, Houston and Antwerp that provides PR global PR services and trade show PR support for tech companies around the world. Some of their services include media relations, content and inbound marketing, CPC campaigns, and marketing automation consulting.

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