Friday, 30 April 2010

PRs vs Media

I have to say I really did enjoy the emails I received after last week's "Media vs PRs" blog. Wow, do you guys have some grumbles! Funnily enough there weren't that many different kinds, they were just the same grumbles over and over again. It makes me laugh because I'm technically not a publicist anymore (except for my one special client Curtis) but I certainly remember the *ahem* occasional frustrations I experienced with the media (who I do truly adore). So, I added my own two cents below in the form of a single quote. But which one is mine? All quotes have been sourced from a gaggle of my favourite buzzy PRs - next week I'll do a wrap up on this silent war and then we'll all hold hands and sing Kumbaya, campfire love-in style.

The things PRs hate the most are...

Journalists who don't respond.
"Just tell us if you're not interested in running something. We wouldn't have to hound you if you just told us a clear & simple "not for me". We are accountable to clients and bosses who ask us if we've followed up."

"I once asked a couple of journos if they would ever consider hitting reply and stating "not interested" and they said that would take too long. I then asked could they simply hit reply and a simple "x" to PRs meaning they're not interested and they said that would also take too long. Come on, seriously?! It would take less than 2 seconds per email and save alot of heartache!"

Don't get angry at us if we follow up in the first place.
"On occasion when I have followed up, a journalist actually HADN'T received my email, and really liked the pitch and ran it! Hence why we follow up. This persistent follow up could be avoided if they just said "NO" in the first place."

"You wouldn't believe how often I get stories up and running simply by following up, it happens more than you'd think. This is the reason an important part of the pitch process is to follow up - yet the media continue to complain that we do. Go figure!"

"We don't care if you say 'not interested' - just say SOMETHING!!"

Journalists who won't confirm your exclusive.
"OK so we know media hate it when we pitch a similar story to two different papers, but what are we supposed to do when they won't get back to us, or won't confirm what they want to do with the story once they've said they're interested? Are we supposed to sit and wait and wonder and potentially miss out on both publications? We have to do what's best for our clients and maximise the opportunities."

Journalists who don't mention your client.
"PRs offer publications exclusives in good faith that the journalist will at least mention the person/place/product being publicised. Then the story runs with NO mention at all. Shouldn't there be give & take? Not just take."

I once went to huge lengths to organise a segment for a TV show about a charity event with a real twist. The producers loved the concept and shot a big story. When the segment aired there was not a single mention of the charity, the website, the event - nothing. It was just a generic feel-good story, so there was absolutely no way for an interested viewer to access any information at all. What a tremendous waste of everyone's time."

Throw our sponsors a bone!
"I would love it if media saw the bigger picture of events and PR. Many of their pages focus on fabulous events, and clearly their readers love it as they consistently rate as the highest-read sections. But getting them to mention your It's even tiny mentions that keep the sponsors coming back and the party circuit spinning. No sponsors = no more events = very empty social pages. I wish they'd back us on this one!"

Not being able to reprimand media for serious errors.
"It's always puzzled me that media continue to complain about publicist's errors, eg typos, grammar in pitches etc, when 9 times out of 10 the story a journo writes on my clients comes out with errors - sometimes really serious ones. Even when they have a clear media release stating the facts. It boggles my mind that we just have to cop it, but wow when we make a mistake - watch out!"

(this one is from a non-PR, but valid):"I was once misquoted so badly in a media interview I point blank refuse to do them now. I have friends who are horrendously misquoted frequently and I don't understand why journalists keep doing it. Just to add spice to their story? It's criminal and they should be held accountable."
"Twitter is the first real platform that allows celebrities or people who have appeared in the media to retaliate and give their side of the story. Unfortunately, this often causes more grief when the journo then publishes their emotional rant and drags the story on longer. We can't win!"
And to end on a high note:
"I have no gripes whatsoever! I think it's because I worked with some really large arseholes in the automotive industry before PR, and in comparison everyone is so lovely. I can't wait to hear everyone's elses gripes though!"

Thanks to everyone who contributed - see you next week!

xxx Tiff


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thanks Tiff, refreshing to see the PRs' side of this story told.

    Whilst we may not work for the same side, our industries are undeniably intertwined. Over the years I have learnt lots about what to do and what not to do by paying attention to journalists in their articles, blog posts and presentations about how PRs should interact with them.

    I hope journalists can benefit in a similar way from this post.

    My guess is your gripe was the story about journalists not responding even with an X?

    Matthew Gain -

  3. What annoys journalists about PR people.
    - Not responding to journalists when they contact PR people.
    - Not allowing us to speak to the interviewee.
    - Delaying return of content if you have asked to check it.
    - Not allowing us to speak to you or the interviewee by phone - Government PR people.

    Carole Goldsmith International Journalist, Trainer, PR consultant and Business Mentor

  4. I agree with Carole Goldsmith but would like to add more things that annoy us journos:
    - deliberately waiting til 1 minue before deadline before responding to answers, knowing we won't have time to question further or verify the response/seek an opposing view.
    - providing written statements that do not sound like conversation: its obvious its scripted, not told to us over the phone/in person, so we won't run it.
    - and reiterating how all PR should make it their number 1 priority to reguarly check which journos are working where and on what round - we do change.

  5. totally agree with you Carole & Louise - hence the previous week's blog topic was Media vs PRs! This blog was the PR response :) xx

  6. Can I add, as a journalist - I try to be completely honest and tell PR people that I'm not interested in running things and why, but 9 times out of 10 they argue with me. Often quite aggressively. On deadline.

    And invariably, the words trotted out at some point will be "I think your readers will be interested in this", as though they are some magic spell that will bend me to their clients' will.

  7. I appreciate this post and agree on the need to hold hands/sing Kumbaya when all's done. I have never once looked back on this career path I've fallen in love with & have a lot of mutual respect for my colleagues in the industry - yes, I do see journalists as my colleagues.

    we (as PR ppl) do our best to research what would be of relevance to what you write about. throw us a bone from time to time (as I see this with Singapore media) do read up a little as well on the topic before you turn up for the interview. That way, no one ends up looking like Eddie Murphy's character from Shrek and we each get a win-win situation.

  8. I've just stumbled upon this. I'm in the US, so it might be a bit different here, but I have to say I have three very large gripes:

    1. I am not stupid. I majored in journalism; I've written stories for newspapers. Basically, I've done what you've done. I have the same degree you have, I just chose a different career path. Please stop speaking to me as though I'm an idiot and undeserving of your time.

    2. Just like you have to answer to an editor, I have boss and a client. I have to tell them the status of my pitching, follow up and stories in progress. I usually try to follow up in a polite way, but please keep in mind, I'm required to do it.

    3. This is my biggest. My client offers a service in return for the story. Therefore, once you've accepted the service, I need you to keep me updated about the status of the story whether it's positive or negative. I think it's only fair - I've given you something, you can simply keep me up-to-date. If the story gets cut, no problem, it happens, just tell me instead of ignoring me.

  9. Is there any point in either side highlighting the random or repeated shortcomings of the other? The finger pointing doesn't lead to increased collegiality or co-operation it simply widens the divide.

    I think a lot of the flak that PR people get from journalists is often really frustration with the organisation (meaning the client) and not the individual. It is the PR person's job to take this on the chin and remain professional.

    I don't think that a journalist that fails to respond to a media pitch can be justified as a #JournoFail. I would argue that its a #PRfail or #Pitchfail or #RelationshipFail (that's assuming that you have a Relationship).