Driven to Digital Distraction

How many technologies are you juggling right now? You know what I mean: Typing away on your keyboard, while simultaneously checking MSNBC, peeking at LinkedIn, and sneaking glances at your cell phone for the thrill of a new text message. It’s enough to make you hear that familiar “ding” of a new email in your sleep.

A recent New York Times/CBS News poll said that many of us feel devices such as smartphones, cellphones and computers have actually increased our stress levels and made it far more difficult to concentrate. Call it technology ADD. And get used to it, because experts seem to think it’s not going away anytime soon.

Putting your own health and stress levels aside, this onslaught of technology and new media portals has another effect, one that especially impacts public relations professionals. It’s the fact that media attention-span is at an all-time low. That means we, as PR pros, must be faster, smarter and more creative in our work. What will make a pitch stand-out from a flood of incoming emails? How can we get through the technology-induced haze and captivate a reporter’s attention? These aren’t new challenges but ones that have intensified as opportunities for distraction have increased.

Respecting the fundamentals of public relations may help fight through some of this haze. Rule No. 1: Personal relationships still matter. Yes, many of these relationships can be made using social media, but it’s still important to come out from behind the desk and meet people face-to-face. Host a media event or even offer to grab lunch with the reporter. As a former journo myself, I know the gesture is very much appreciated.

Second, use technology to monitor the online conversation, get to know the publication and the reporter, but when it comes to making the pitch, don’t forget the power of the phone. It’s easy to hide behind email. But, oftentimes, you’ll instantly make a connection via phone that you can’t achieve via email, and when you do follow-up via keyboard, you might be less likely to see a “deleted without reading” notice flash across your inbox.

Another pointer: quality over quantity is still important. It’s easy enough to email 50 pitches a day but what if you have nothing to show for it? Taking the time to tailor your pitch, place a call and hopefully have a conversation will go a lot further than that blast email.

I know that most of these practices for public relations professionals are no-brainers but, in this tech-savvy world, it’s still easy to get caught up in what might be the fast or easy method. So next time you need to pitch, just try going low-tech. Put down the mouse and pick up the phone. You might be surprised at how far you get—and it won’t require five different technologies to get you there.

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