It’s a ritual most public relations practitioners are familiar with – building a list of contacts for a client or building a list of influencers for an event. List-building is the first step to relationship-building in our profession, and while it is foundational, it is also tedious, thankless and instantaneously obsolete.
I frequently get contacted by someone new in travel media or a far-away print publication and they say “Put me on your list.” So which list do they go on, for how long and how much contact do they really want to have with me?
Should this outlet get our annual press kit mailing or are they interested in seasonal events or a 25-word listing about hours and days of operation? So, now you know. I have at least three lists. Okay, I have more than that. In fact, we have so many different lists that we have to organize them into a folder called “Media Lists.” And it is SO yesterday.
So why do we do it? First of all, as creatures of habit, we have to do it. Second, if we don’t add to the list, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs.
But list-building gets in the way of network building. If there’s one thing social media is teaching us, it’s that the two-way conversational nature of this medium makes network-building so vitally important. And list-making is so one-way.
Enter Peter Shankman and HARO, which has been featured here before http://prsanantonio.blogspot.com/2008/06/help-reporter-out.html. I heard about and joined the HARO network when it was at 10,000 members. That was early this summer. Now, at 22,000 strong, it’s a list that is less about WHO is on the spreadsheet and more about who needs to CONNECT with whom. While the three times daily e-mails hit all 22,000 members, the unwritten rule is ever-present. You will not approach a media person on the queries list if you don’t fit the request. And so the dialogue begins and we, as public relations professionals, begin the process of “how can I help you do this story?” The connections are far more meaningful than any traditional list.