Public relations can stand to learn a lot from Howard Moskowitz. The legendary experimental psychologist, whose research and work is chronicled most excellently by Malcolm Gladwell in a speech at a February 2004 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference, essentially reinvented the consumer product goods category. His revelation essentially concluded that consumers don’t know what they want and are much happier given several varieties of a product to choose from than the most popular version selected from focus groups or other research.
According to Gladwell’s speech, Prego spaghetti sauce’s research for years showed not a single focus group answer reflecting Moskowitz’s conclusion that nearly one-third of all Americans prefer extra chunky sauce. His data showed that instead of a singular preference for the perfect sauce, there were three types of sauces almost equally preferred by thirds of consumers.
“He fundamentally democratized the way we think about taste,” Gladwell says in the speech, referring to Moskowitz’s conclusion that the key to the American consumer’s tastes is through horizontal segmentation, a concept that thwarted popular theory at the time that aspiration (vertical segmentation) drove sales.
I know. And this has what to do with public relations and pitching media outlets?
Like the American consumer, the American (or just human) media member, inclusive of bloggers, does not possess a singular taste for how to be pitched ideas. Yet, for the better part of the information age, we’ve been pitching everyone the same way.
Technology allowed us to democratize the instant notification of our media lists with fax blasts. When the world made the transition to the Internet, we found the BCC field and went to town. Everyone receives the press release the same way at the same time. Aren’t we good?
No. We sucked. And we still do.
What technology eclipsed, leaving to wither away in the shadows, was our understanding of each media member and how they prefer to be given information. We stopped paying attention to detail and started serving up just plain Prego. Some people buy it. Some people buy Ragu. Others make their own.
By understanding that every media member is different, but we can segment them into categories of preference, we can better organize our outreach, customize our pitches and serve both the media outlet and our client or organization. We don’t need the perfect pitch. We need the perfect pitches.
You may find the bloggers on your list prefer to be approached the same way. You may find seven different segments within them alone. But by continually parsing, reviewing and studying your media lists, keeping the perfect pitches in mind, you should soon start to see a higher return on your media relations investment.
It is not about pleasing the maximum number of people with one fluid motion. It is about pleasing each and every person you approach with as many movements as required. By embracing the diversity of our media outlets, we find the true path to successful media relations.
There can be more than one approach. There can be more than one press release.
In fact, there not only can be, there should be.