Friday, June 11, 2010

PR problems: one reporter's beef with the industry

As a reporter, I'd say about 75 percent of the stories we pursue come from press releases. I say this only having worked at local publications; maybe the case is different at national papers where one has the financial resources and contacts to have their reporters on the street digging for stories. But, in my world, we get press releases and pursue the more interesting leads. In a way, reporters need PR professionals. The give us ideas, leads. But listen up PR people – you need us to. You need us to give you coverage, preferably positive. And I think a lot of you are forgetting that we can make or break the amount of publicity you get.

My recent communication with PR people has been spotty at best. I had a really great interaction with Hanger's PR person: she responded quickly, professionally and set up my interview appointments. She gave me all the info I needed, made sure that the contact who I interviewed was prepared and deserves probably double what her salary is.

But I've also had several really awful interactions with PR people. Look, if you're going to send me a press release without contact info for the people involved, then I expect you to be the intermediary. Please note that forwarding my email to your client isn't doing your job. I hate getting emails from random people because you're too lazy to get back to me or to give me their info in the original press release. And I at least need to know that you've received my email or phone call. That would simply be the professional thing to do (and it'll take you five seconds to do).

You should be striving to build relationships with the media. There are ways in which we can help each other with disseminating information. I have to say that the DMNS and Body Worlds have done a *fantastic* job of doing just that. They accommodated all of my photo and interview requests, fed me before and after I checked out their exhibit (which is huge, especially for a graduate student) and still contact me with releases and special media days. They also offered discounts to bring our families to the exhibit. I'm not saying that every company/client has the funds to do all that or even needs to do all of that. But don't blow me off or send me someone else's email and tell me to figure it out on my own. So what's your job then? If it's merely sending out releases and stopping there, then cut yourself out of the equation. Let your client send the press release; it'll take a step out of the process for me.

If you're not promoting the product or client and acting as the conduit between them and the media, then what are they paying you for? I get that it can be a tough and time consuming job. But we're the ones who give your story column inches (and the media community's small – do one of us wrong and a lot of people hear about it). We're an easy bunch to please. Get us the info, get back to us in time (we have deadlines, remember?) and we'll give you the best coverage we can.

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