Journalists like to tweet and they like to drink

As a continuation of last week’s post, where PR renegade Shaun Saunders interviewed Murray Newlands, and leading up to next week’s PR Summit in San Francisco, I present an entertaining conversation with Greg Galant, CEO of Sawhorse Media (creator of Muck Rack and the Shorty Awards).

Greg is one of those guys we can all learn a lot from; in terms of just normal human being-ness…he’s pleasant and unassuming but not afraid to ruffle feathers. It’s a fine balance, but he does it with extreme adeptness. In this interview he talks about the future of PR, what journalists like, and that little thing called Twitter. P.S. He will be speaking at PR Summit next week!

Rebekah Iliff: What was the impetus behind Muck Rack, and how’s it going?

Greg Galant: When we created the Shorty Awards in late 2008, we were surprised by how many journalists were using Twitter to do their jobs. We had inbound press requests from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BBC and many more. At the ceremony our pressroom was filled with over 60 journalists. We ran out of drinks for them.

So we learned journalists like to tweet and they like to drink. We thought we could help with the former desire. In April 2009 we [Sawhorse Media] launched Muck Rack as the first place to find journalists on social media. After we saw its popularity, we re-launched in late 2011 as a full-fledged social network for journalists and introduced Muck Rack Pro to help companies get more press.

We’ve got over 15,000 journalists on Muck Rack. Most of the top PR firms and many Fortune 500 companies are using Muck Rack Pro, in addition are many “growth stage” companies including Hubspot and Hootsuite. We also have many tiny startups using it to scale their PR efforts.

RI: How has the PR role changed since the days of Steve Jobs (i.e. needing to know 4-5 journalists to get your story out)?

GG: Three big things have changed in media:

#1 – There are many more outlets that matter.

#2 – Journalists change jobs and beats more frequently.

#3 – You can find and build relationships with journalists using social media.

The first two make life harder for PR pros, but the third is a huge opportunity most people in PR are still not taking advantage of, in my opinion.

RI: Talk about the concept of “Slow PR” – what does it mean, and why does it deserve lip service?

GG: Much of the PR industry has devolved into writing stale press releases and emailing it en masse (i.e. spamming) to hundreds of journalists. Emailing lots of journalists the same thing seemingly doesn’t have a cost. But it’s not very effective. And in the long term there’s a big cost to your reputation.

Slow PR is about using social media to heavily research which journalist you should connect with, building relationships and sending focused pitches – over time.

RI: I notice on Muck Rack you have a section for “journalists” and “communication pros”. Why not PR pros? [FOR THE RECORD: I’ve been on a mission for the past year to get people to think of PR in terms of communications because the term PR – in addition to having a negative connotation – is such a misrepresentation of what is really going on]

GG: We struggle with what to call people whose job it is to get the word out to the public about something. It’s a skill that leaders from Steve Jobs to Martin Luther King, Jr. have mastered. Yet the profession that does it for a living is much maligned. I even wrote a column for Fortune titled “Why public relations gets no respect” musing on why that is. I’m not sure if the term can be salvaged, but I think the industry has a huge opportunity to grow if it evolves.

RI: Speaking of semantics, the whole idea of “journalism” has taken a sharp turn. How do you define a journalist? In other words, do you have a set of criteria in mind?

GG: We have a team of editors who struggle over the question of who is a journalist since we verify journalists on Muck Rack. Their job is getting harder and harder since it’s getting easier for anyone to do journalism — which is a good thing.

But simply doing journalism isn’t the same thing as being a journalist, in the same way that I take lots of photos on my iPhone but I wouldn’t describe myself as a photographer. So one of the first things we look for is if the person does journalism as their primary profession.

RI: You wrote in one of your Fortune columns: “Public relations now has meaningful data to influence big decisions.” Talk about this a bit more.

Public relations has always been vexed by a data problem. A company knows a good write up in a publication their target market reads has value, but how much? In the age of print it was all guesswork. Now for the first time there’s lots of data on every article that comes out of social media shares. This shift inspired us to launch WhoSharedMyLink.com.

RI: What are the “pros and cons” of using social web metrics as the way in which PR measures success around a given campaign?

GG: Social shares let you know if people found the story compelling enough to put their name on the line and share with their friends and followers. You can also examine who’s sharing your link and what they’re saying about it, to know if you’re reaching the right audience. However the biggest risk of a metric as public and universal as social shares is letting it blind you to other data.

RI: 3 Predictions for the future of the PR industry? Go!

GG:

#1 – PR will start getting bigger budgets.

#2 – PR people will make social media the biggest part of their jobs.

#3 – A new term for PR will be invented and adopted.

RI: I agree on all of the above with one addition – standard ROI metrics will be adopted.

GG: I’ll let you guys take a stab at that one.

Greg GalantAbout Greg Galant

Gregory Galant is the cofounder and CEO of Sawhorse Media, a movement to make it easy to find the right people on the social web through products including Muck Rack and the Shorty Awards. Muck Rack is the leading network for journalists on social media which TheNextWeb called “one of the most useful tools ever invented for media professionals”. The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media; past winners include Ricky Gervais, Cory Booker, Conan O’Brien, Sesame Street, Neil Patrick Harris, Mike Bloomberg and NASA.

To help fellow entrepreneurs, Greg created Venture Voice, a podcast interview series with the founders of Twitter, LinkedIn, The Vanguard Group, Brooklyn Brewery and more. Greg’s a mentor in the TechStars program and an advisor to several startups. BusinessWeek named him one of the “Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs of 2010”.

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Follow Greg on Twitter: https://twitter.com/gregory

Check him out at the PR Summit next week: http://www.prsummit.org/

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