Thursday, 22 April 2010

Media vs PRs

OK, so we're all supposed to work together but often PRs couldn't be further on the other side of the fence to media. While I'm not naive enough to believe that the silent war that wages on between the two camps will ever be over, I do believe that the more we discuss the grumbles each has for the other, the closer we'll all get to an elusive detente. While without question there's a whole lotta of love between the two groups, this week I'm discussing the things that PRs do that consistently piss off the media. And of course the PRs will have their turn next week! I'll then *ahem* attempt some kind of summary where we'll all hopefully learn something, and be just that little bit savvier in our dealings with each other.

In no particular order, here are the top things that piss the media off. All comments have been sourced from a variety of fabulous journos: Ros Reines, Melissa Hoyer, Shelly Horton, Holly Byrnes, Andrew Hornery, Luke Dennehy, Joel Christie...and anonymous! And don't get upset, Hornery suggested we all have a love-in once this blog topic is finished :)

Know what they write about.
A PR rang Holly and pitched a story completely unrelated to her pages. Holly kindly replied, "This isn't really the sort of thing I would write about for my pages, but if you can find a relevant angle I'd be happy to have a look at it." And the PRs response? "Why don't you tell me in 30 words or less what it is you write about?" Um, how about you get the paper and read the pages for 30 seconds and then you'd know?

Luke: "The most annoying thing is when a PR has obviously not done their research when calling to pitch a story. As I'm based in Melbourne, it's usually interstate based companies that do this, and I'm sure some Melbourne PRs do this to Sydney journos! This can be simple things like not knowing my name, spelling it wrong, getting the publication I work for wrong, etc. Like always, first impressions are very important."

Shelly: "I hate it when people don't spell my name correctly. It's a little thing but come on, after 3 years on the job your lists should be updated and you should know there's only one 'e' in Shelly."

Don't assume a personal relationship until you actually have one.
Anon: "I hate it when part of the PR pitch is asking questions about my weekend and what I've been doing. If I don't know them and they don't know me, this is an irritable waste of time and will affect how I view what they're actually calling about."

"I love a PR who is direct and straight to the point, there's no point for me to have mindless chatter about inane topics, unless we're friends of course!"

Don't call them on deadline.

Andrew: "When I get calls from 'blah blah' at 'blah blah blah PR' at around 4:30pm when I'm on deadline and they are asking me if I received their email about some crappy lip gloss or some such. My eyes glaze and my tone usually gets a bit frosty. It's really tedious and pretty dumb on their part as it's the worst possible time to call a journalist on a metro daily newspaper who has never written a word about lip gloss products in his 23-year career!"

Holly: "PRs that call on deadline and say "I know it's deadline, but..." and then wax on about getting an RSVP to an event or something that is not critical for next day publication. By all means call with urgent info, but please understand that we are feral on deadline and may just bite your head off."

"Calling on Friday deadline about something next month. We pretty much work week to week but I'm definitely more tolerant on Tuesdays and Wednesdays."
Luke: "I prefer pitches, hellos, ideas in email - it's just easier and for me, much clearer."

Don't harass.

PR: "I'm just calling to find out if you got my media release?" Andrew: "Yes, we do receive your emails, but if we don't respond it usually means we don't care very much!"

"Don't push too hard - if we've shown interest in a story, you have a right to keep calling, but if it's something we have no intention of running and the calls and emails keep coming, this is obviously going to affect the relationship."

Don't offer bogus exclusives.
Andrew: "The PR who says they are offering me an exclusive angle on a story which I later discover has been carved up among 3 million other reporters - sorry but that aint very exclusive in my book! And as for those flunks who ask "can you write about it in a positive way?"...Puhhlease! Sorry honey, take out an ad."

Melissa: "PRs who get two bites of the PR cherry, pitching the same story to opposing papers. Both would publish but all you end up getting, apart from a very happy client, is two very peeved journalists."

Don't bullshit.
PR: "Cate Blanchet and Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Hawkins and Megan Gale are all coming to my event!" Luke: "There is nothing worse when PRs tell you celebrities will be there that have no chance of making it, just to get us there. It's wasting everyone's time, and I think us journos always remember things like that."

"It really annoys me when PRs provide comments on their clients behalf, before even asking what their client thinks of the question. I've caught a few out over the years - calling the client and getting it from the horses' mouth will always be more favourable for me."

"Not long ago a PR gave us some handout quotes from a story in a magazine they represent. It was a 6 page spread but we were given just a few key quotes. Basically, they were given to us completely out of context and the ensuing story was highly defamatory and would have almost certainly have landed us in court. Luckily we got a hold of the magazine just before going to press and we pulled the piece. To this day I refuse to deal with this PR and they should ask themselves: Was it all worth it for one day of coverage?"

Don't be ridiculous.
Melissa: "I once had a PR say, "I don't buy papers, so could you send me a copy once you've written it up." I kid you not!"

Shelly: "After hounding me to run a fashion/charity story I was already annoyed but then it got worse. The PR rang on Monday to see if the story ran because "she couldn't be bothered reading the papers on Sunday". I told her not to bother pitching to me ever again."

Don't send ridiculous press kits or invitations.
Ros: "People who send press kits to the office stacked with silver confetti or other missiles that get stuck in our hair or in the keyboard. Save that kind of caper for your next children's party!"

Don't hound them at events:
Ros: "What I hate the most is PRs who try and lead me around an event like a performing seal. I've been on the party circuit for 15 years and pretty much know everyone - if I wish to talk to a celebrity, I have no problems approaching them myself. You don't have to hover in the background nervously wondering what I'm going to say. If it's that much concern, don't invite me in the first place."

Make your client the star, not yourself.
Andrew: "My absolute pet hate is the publicist who becomes more famous than their clients, and appears in too many social pages."

Give them something to work with.
Holly: "I think in the case of crisis management, 'no comment' is as good as 'I'm guilty' when it comes to responding on behalf of the client. My personal opinion is that it's better to attempt some sort of response which acknowledges the story but declines to comment further or disputes the facts."

Ros: "Photographing or filming the speeches at charity events, while undoubtedly worthy, will probably not propel that event into party of the week. The social pages and videos are all about entertainment and fun, so we need plenty of names and well dressed people. The odd controversial celebrity would not go astray either."

Luke: "I like a PR person who plays the game and understands using things like 'off the record' and how journalists work. The best PRs are ones that have a great news sense, and know what we're looking for."

Next week: PRs vs Media! Send your feedback to For obvious reason, all comments will be anonymous! ;)


  1. I might please add: "Can you send me a copy/pdf of the article? I can't find it"...especially when it's on the front page. If not use our handy dandy search function and press print screen! It probably takes longer to write the email to ask and it seems small but doing you clipping job for a few of you adds up.

    Also have had PRs tell (not suggest) my photographers what to shoot at an event as if they had hired them to be their own official snapper. Then try to get their own copies without asking me.

    Other than that I will respond to any email that addresses me by name (even if it's obvious that it's been done automatically). Even if it's to explain something doesn't fit with our editorial guidelines.

  2. I've been on both sides of the fence and know the hardest thing for both is when a client really wants coverage on some minor award or event, but the PR and journalist know it's not worth mentioning. Often clients can't be dissuaded their topic isn't news, so reps are stuck.

    In these cases I thank heavens for "Briefs," "Journals" and blogs, which give the client some minor press, briefly notify readers who might be interested and (sometimes) get the client of the PR reps back.