Want to know reporters’ pet peeves about working with PR people?
But attend any panel session that includes members of the media and the question ALWAYS comes up.
At first the reporter will get a look on his or her face like, “oh, wow, where do I begin?” Then they’ll start off answering the question in a nice way, “well, it’s helpful if the PR person who is contacting me has a relationship with me, or has maybe even read my work and can reference that in the pitch.” But then they get warmed up and watch out! Soon you’ll all be chuckling over the crazy things PR people do when they are pitching stories.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
Most reporters don’t start out spouting off about how annoying PR people are (notice I said “most”) – it’s the PR people who ask them this question. I suppose we ask it because we have an inner desire to do better, or maybe it’s to ingratiate ourselves to the media. I also suppose it’s a PR rite of passage of sorts in which every junior PR person must be exposed to hearing first-hand the rantings of the “other side” and have their blinders removed, so to speak.
But it seems to me that the answers are always astoundingly basic and are only exposing the mistakes of moronic individuals or of a few bad apples.
The two annoyances that come up most frequently when the media is asked this question have to do with follow up calls (either calling when reporters are on deadline or following up excessively) and receiving pitches that are completely off the mark. So do your homework, folks, and understand who you’re pitching and their position with the media outlet, as well as how they work, including their deadlines.
Are we that masochistic?
Are PR pros using their voyeuristic gene to focus on all the bad examples in the industry? How else to explain the popular and authoritative Bad Pitch Blog? Or the site’s efforts, as well as Gawker’s, to “improve the PR industry through ridicule”? Or the viral path that PR screw-ups have taken recently, such as when a BrandLink VP failed miserably in pitching the Bloggess?
It’s gotten to the point that the industry has started debating the value of publicly outing bad pitches, like Arik Hanson does in his post, Are We Helping or Hurting by Blogging About PR Flameouts?
This doesn’t happen in other industries
Can you imagine a group of lawyers asking a judge about what courtroom behavior is the most vexing? Or scientists asking the FDA for tips on speeding up drug approvals?
Of course there’s a difference between “peeving” someone and royally mucking up a brand’s reputation. In any industry, the latter could cost you your job. But, in our industry, the consensus seems to be that there’s value in talking about what not to do.
Do you agree? Disagree?
Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.