OK so I had to really think about this one hence the 3 week absence! I won't blog unless I have something to say and I went round in circles a bit on this one. I started off by getting quotes from media but decided that I should just write it from the point of view of the PR, considering this is what I know. It's brief, but there's a few bits 'n bobs I've learnt over the years that could assist here.
I think PRs should:
Deal with the fact that journalists will continue to not get back to you.
I was listening to 106.5FM the other night (yep I'm a total cheesebag) and a girl called up to contribute to a discussion about relationships. She said she didn't understand why guys didn't call after a date, and her argument was they should call and let her know that they're not interested to save her waiting around for weeks. She said she could deal with that and would prefer the honesty. I couldn't help but laugh and think this is exactly how PRs feel when it comes to media not returning calls. But I really can't imagine even the most decent guy calling up to let a girl know he's just not that into her...so it made me realise nothing is ever going to change and everyone just needs to accept it!
Accept the fact that a PR story comes with no guarantees.
Just because you've pitched, confirmed, organised a photo shoot, interview, exclusives, etc - doesn't mean it's going to run, and it's usually not the journalists fault. After years in PR I refuse to get excited until I have the paper in my hands. I remember doing a Sunday Tele page 3 shoot with a 9 yr old BMX champion years back when I was working on Coca-Cola, and he was SO excited he was going to be in the paper. Noting this excitement, I took he & his mother aside and explained that there's never a guarantee and firmly instructed them not to tell any of his mates just in case the story was pulled, as fluff pieces so often are. They told me they totally understood. Cut to Sunday morning when indeed "a bomb dropped somewhere in the world" and the story was pulled - and I was left with an irate mother and a distraught young boy on my hands. They had ignored my advice, told everyone at his school, and he was subsequently being teased for being a liar. It was awful. Bottom line: if you want something to run, buy an ad. If you want to PR it, cross your fingers. And don't tell anyone until it runs!
Help the media in all ways, not just for yourself.
All too often PRs only contact the media or give them stories when it benefits their clients. I've always felt it's really important to give them what you can when it doesn't benefit you, simply to help them out. It's obviously a wonderful way to build relationships as well. So if you hear something, see something, spot a celebrity - whatever it is, let your fave journo know. I have personal ethics here however: I would never pass on a story that would hurt someone.
Know the individual media deadlines.
It's pretty simple - just ask them when they do and don't like to be contacted, or at least use your common sense and don't follow up a Sunday journo on a Friday - pretty simple really but this is so often ignored and it's a total no-brainer.
If a journo runs a fab story for you, say thankyou. PRs can often chase, harass, hound to get their story across the line and then when it comes out - they're silent. Some manners wouldn't go astray!
And I feel media could:
Lighten up a bit on PRs.
Keep in mind that often it's not the poor young girl following up that is at fault, but her boss who has instructed she keeps calling until she gets an answer. PRs need to seriously reconsider this strategy. And even if she's not under this pressure (unless she's inept) she's really just trying to do her job.
When I was a wee PR lass of 22 I was following up a Ray-Bans release. I was going down my follow-up list when I came upon an Editor of a Sydney metro newspaper lifestyle section, lets call her Cynthia Scarypants. Me: "hi, it's Tiffany from CavCon and I'm just calling about the Ray-Ban story I sent you and wondered whether you're interested?" Cynthia: Long pause. "If I was f@#$ing interested in your f@#$ing media release, I'd f@#$ing call you wouldn't I!" *Insert a series of expletives here that would make this blog a little too colourful*. Cue me, shaking and teary - it was quite a verbal assault.
Cut to two weeks later when I was at an event, being introduced to a group of people. Mark said "Cynthia, meet my new girl Tiffany Farrington". Cynthia flinched at my name and then looked at me with a curious expression, as if trying to place where she knew me. I nervously looked down at the floor, hoping she'd just let it go, when she said "Tiffany Farrington...Tiffany Farrington...have we met before?" Me: "No, no, I don't think so, but lovely to meet you!" to which she replied: "Did I...did we...speak on the phone a couple of weeks ago?" Me: (meekly) "Um...maybe", nervously looking for an exit somewhere in the venue. Cynthia then proceeded, to my surprise, to apologise profusely. She explained that she'd had a really bad day and I happened to be the 1,000th PR to call her and to whom she vented all her frustration. The irony of this was that she was so apologetic that she ended up hugging me, and becoming a great contact in the process - always taking my call and helping out when she could!
Big love to all PRs & Media everywhere :)