As a long-time public relations practitioner (PR puke, flack, mouthpiece, media whore, etc.) of more than 25 years, I have seen tremendous changes in the way many journalists do their jobs.
Yes, they often have the right to despise PR folks who pitch them silly stories and then call incessantly to follow-up on them.
“Hi, this is Bambi Smith from PR Flack International. I was just calling to see if you received our press release on our client donating $500 to global warming to show his company’s commitment to stopping the melting of polar ice caps and saving those big white bears…”
Yes, it is embarrassing, but unfortunately there are many people who are put in public relations positions because they “ like people” (and it helps to know someone in top management).
They make PR pros cringe. They are idiots.
But, as it is often said, let he/she who is without sin cast the first stone.
There are a lot of people in journalism today who are an embarrassment to the profession. I swear the number is growing as many media outlets are making hiring decisions based on cost-savings rather than journalistic excellence.
Journos may go back to their office complaining about obnoxious and ignorant PR people. Don’t feel bad. We do the same thing when talking about many journalists.
I am at the point where nothing would surprise me anymore in journalism on either side.
As a public service, I have decided to compile the official “Top 10” list of Bottom Line Communications’ guidelines for journalists to follow. If you have a colleague please share it with him/her, and maybe the world could be a better place for all of us.
Here we go:
1) Contrary to what might think, PR folks do not sit around all day waiting for your call in order to immediately drop everything to respond to your needs in the next 10 minutes to meet your deadline. PR folks should respond quickly to your needs, but sometimes those needs can be a bit much, particularly since you have been working on the story for a week.
2) When we send you a news release it is an embarrassment for you to turn it over to your advertising folks to call us to do the “ad for editorial” dance. (Yes, it’s just as embarrassing to us when our executive discreetly reminds you that we advertise with you).
3) In reality, for many PR people our jobs are basically on the line every time a journalist calls. Our CEO does not comprehend that we don’t really “manage” or “dictate” things to the news media. He/ she often doesn’t distinguish between the employee who does our in-house paper and a real journalist.
4) No one expects you to be an expert on our business, but at least check out our Web site ahead of time to get a rough idea of what we do. Heck, in a pinch actually read the background stuff I sent you.
5) We know your time is valuable. We also know our chief executive’s time is pretty valuable. How long should we wait around for you to show up? An hour? Two?
6) Sorry, but when you arrive in cut-off blue jeans, sandals and a tank top to interview my CEO—rightly or wrongly— it is taken as a lack of respect. It is not a good way to gain confidence or make him/her comfortable that you will do your job professionally when you arrive late and look like you just finished mowing your lawn.
7) We know that you are one layoff away from joining our lowly ranks of PR people, but you make us very uncomfortable when you ask about possible job openings for yourself or spouse at our company prior to an interview with our CEO. Does that mean if we give you a job the story will be positive—or vice versa?
8) Those of us who are veterans of the PR business sometimes media train our key people and brief them on your interview style and the direction the story may take. Keep in mind, none of our executives got their positions because of their media expertise. It is our job to level the playing field in interviews.
9) Please, please do not ask my client if he would like to review your story before it runs. Do you have any idea what a can of worms that opens up for me? The client will not be happy unless you have written a complete and total PR puff piece, and will likely ask me to re-write your story. Don’t put me in that position.
10) Realize we both have jobs to do. You want to write an honest and accurate story and we want to make your job as easy as possible and get some of our key points across. Story errors get you in trouble. They also get us in trouble.
In the words of that great statesman Rodney King, “Can’t we just get along?” We both have jobs to do. My goal is to make my client look good. Your goal is to provide an accurate story to readers.
We can both achieve our goals with a little cooperation.
(John Landsberg is the president of Bottom Line Communications, a Public Relations firm based in Leawood. He is also an adjunct professor of marketing, sales and public relations. www.bottomlinecom.com. Please credit this site when reprinting.)