Have you thought of hiring a PR agency? Do you have one already? Do you happen to know exactly what they are doing? 

I don't work for a PR agency. I never have. I'm friends with a few people who do PR in house at companies. I also have a few friends who work at reputable ones that work the right way. But those kinds of agencies are few and far between.

As a columnist for Inc. and a few other publications, I'm on the receiving end of dozens of pitches each day. Most of them are really bad.

I get so many pitches that I had to create a separate inbox specifically for the incoming messages. Otherwise, I'd get bogged down from reading all these emails -- and that would take me away from doing real work.

If your PR agency doesn't handle your events... being on the receiving end of these pitches, I can tell you the exact process of what your PR agency does.

Your PR Agency's process to get you press:

Step 1.

They buy a software like Cision. You may have heard of their product HARO (Help a Reporter Out). Cision provides PR agencies with a database of nearly every single columnist/journalist at every major publication. It's like a huge database with everything you're looking for.

When you use it for data analysis, it's a wonderful tool to have. But a lot of PR agencies misuse it.

Step 2.

The publicist looks up the publications they want to feature their client in.

Step 3.

The publicist creates a list of who to email.

Step 4.

The publicist crafts a pitch for the columnists/journalists.

Step 5.

Now this is where things go bad. The publicist sends the same pitch to everyone on the list. Even if you have one of the few publicists out there that doesn't send the same pitch to everyone, the first thing they do in the relationship is they pitch you.

Step 6.

The publicist follows up asking if you're interested in running the story.

Now, I guess if you work in the newsroom at a news agency like Fox News or NBC News, you read through all the press releases and pitches you get and pick and choose what you want to feature. There has to be a structure to the madness when you're bombarded with story ideas each day. But when it comes to columnists like myself, the world has changed a lot.

Staff writers aren't the norm anymore. Most people who contribute to publications like Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur and so forth are not staff writers, but people who have a mutual agreement with their publication to either use the platform to share their expertise, write a specific amount of articles each month or cover things within a specific category. These columnists, much like myself, are either entrepreneurs, authors, professors, writers or thought leaders within their industry.

So what does that mean?

We don't sit around and look for stories. Nor do we want to get pitched all day.

As an entrepreneur and a so called thought leader in my industry of personal branding and social media, I'm not going to read a pitch. I mean, I used to. But the problem was that I kept seeing step 5 and step 6 continue over and over. I got the same pitch that everyone else was getting and hardly anyone was customizing the pitch to be catered specifically to me. Plus, a lot of the content was not really appealing to my interests.

So what do I do?

I let the emails pile up and I start to completely ignore the inbox. And what do other columnists do?

They do the exact same thing I do. They ignore the messages and delete them out of their inbox.

So that means that you're paying your agency to send messages on your behalf that are directly going into a trash can or into an empty abyss.

But why do things work out this way?

The problem.

When you realize the process of exactly what your PR agency is doing and what the demographic is of the writers at these publications are, it becomes pretty clear that you are tossing your money down the drain.

And this is also why you aren't getting the media coverage you're looking for, even though your agency continues to get paid month after month.

What is even harder to believe is how many people do PR for years and don't understand the writing guidelines of each publication. If you're talking to them each day and reading content on their sites, how do you not know what it is?

Anyway...

This is what your agency should be doing -- and what real PR agencies do.

Step 1.

Find the publications to feature your client in.

Step 2.

Look up who writes for the publication.

Step 3.

Look at which writers cover topics as similar as possible to what your client does.

Step 4.

Engage with the work of your target writer. This means read their stuff, comment on it, talk about what you learned, get familiar with their writing style, what they like and so forth. I'd rather talk to someone who engages with my stuff than just some random stranger who messages me.

Step 5.

Create a real relationship with the writer, preferably on Twitter. Talk about their interests, like the business that they run or the school they teach at. Create a real bond. I'd rather help someone who I can treat as a friend than someone who keeps pitching me and telling me about what they want all day.

Step 6.

Know what your writer wants. Since you've familiarized yourself with their content and got to know them a bit better, you will be able to better understand what your writer wants. Do they want insights on sports? Or how to build a business empire? On branding and marketing? On operations? You will be able to get a better understanding of what they want, but only if you put in the time to build the relationship first.

Step 7.

Once you build trust and a relationship, offer help. Say you can help provide insights on a topic that they would probably be interested in covering. I'm an expert, but I like outside insights too because they help validate my claims.

Step 8.

Plug your client's expertise in an easy bite size chunk that the writer can digest. But make sure your client's expertise is unique. No one wants to hear that the best way to make a lot of money is to have a positive mindset. Extract information from your client that only they know and no one else does. It needs to have a strong impact that will make readers think twice when they are reading it. Also, with high quality content, your writer will keep coming back to you for more bite sized nuggets of advice.

Step 9.

Start back at step 1 and build a network of writers who trust you so you don't have to continually rebuild the relationships.

Step 10.

Show your appreciation to your writers. Send them cookies or something on Christmas and on other holidays, or just because. You wouldn't believe how many people talk to a writer, get their feature in and stop talking to them altogether. It's kind of rude and you don't want to be known as that person. So be friendly and show your appreciation.

I've followed this outline for myself and it works so well that I've gathered up enough media mentions that someone made a Wikipedia page about me. And by just plugging away and working, I have also created an inbound network where people reach out to me and want to feature me in other places. And I've helped a few people and companies do the exact same thing.

When you do the PR cycle properly, it expands and grows larger than life. So if your PR agency isn't doing that for you now, you are with the wrong agency.

Since I get to see both sides of how things work, I used the insights to create a course that will teach you how to go out there and get media features the right way for yourself as well.

If you need help and want to learn how to craft your pitch or reach out to writers, don't hesitate to reach out. You can connect with me on my Twitter to get my real email address (which is sitting there in plain sight) that the people who are pitching me skip out on. Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

Do you have any other insights about how PR agencies should be pitching? I'd love to learn more! Comment below.

Published on: Aug 29, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.