Change would be good for us too!

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September 29th, 2010 Priyanka Joshi

Humbled by reader feedback that my previous blog post generated — both positive and some not so positive — I had to write another one to finish what I started. Just to reiterate, I began with how PR executives can best use technology available to establish good media relations and how emails to social media platforms are abused by a large section.Even after reading my post, a few who sent me positive feedback continue to cold call me during peak rush hours (and some even SMSed me Monday meeting reminders on Sunday afternoon), pitch for non-existent news/feature sections over chat, call at least a 100 times in a day (with introductions that last over 2 minutes) to check on emails and press releases (most of which are not even my interest areas). And then I’m branded ‘rude’ by peers in the industry.

Beginning with the general assumption that (bulk of) journalists seem to treat public relations and its practitioners with contempt, I have to admit that I’m guilty too. But listening to 25-odd cold calls from trainee PRs to check if “a particular column was still carried in paper” or “to confirm if I have received the email they sent,” pardon me if I lose my calm.

But really, I (and many many journos) don’t treat all PRs with contempt. It’s not sustainable for us to ignore this category of media personnel. There are at least 100 fabulous PR professionals whom I respect, listen to and even call in case I have not understood a particular section in press releases. The reason: they know their client. They know what press release is saying (and often what press release refrains from saying). They understand if I’m a reporter from a business daily, then what kind of data and deadlines we work for. These will be the signs of a good PR. I have had healthy discussions arguments

I admit that not all PRs and journos can be generalized in good or bad category but if you want to keep a client/brand (who pays you the retainer fees) featured on any newspaper/magazine, then please take the time out to read the daily at least once in your life. Figure out if the magazine/daily/TV channel presents any scope for your client and how it would interest the audience of that news medium. Is it too much to ask? Perhaps yes, but if you want to be a PR professional who is respected for his/her insight about a newspaper/news medium then it’s a small homework to do.

Journalists, I have seen, tend to take the presence of PRs for granted. There are journos who care two cents about media ethics when they interact with PRs — they call up PRs/corporate communications expecting instant gratification or sometimes even threaten with zero publicity if contact details of company executives are not shared. Here’s where we go wrong. While there is a sliver of chance that a PR might disclose his client contacts to a journos (usually a friend/confidante) but really if we expect instant gratification then it’s time to step out of our AC offices and meet all companies (a journo tracks or writes) in person. This way you develop contacts and establish a rapport on your own.

The job of the media is (in theory) is to tell the stories (based on facts & figures) to its audience that PR people sometimes don’t want told. Here’s where the fine line is. There are journos who take “telling stories” literally and then there are journalists who will think and check twice before they add their bylines to a speculative article. It is open to argument what breed of journos you deal with on a day to day basis but as PR professional you are required to have answers and deal with uncomfortable situations, or just have non-answers that work well enough that people forget what they are asking. It is akin to the situation where we are expected to have working knowledge and insights on every subject (even the ones we have no clue about).

Public Relations has to be much more than press releases and pitching. Yes, I have never been on the other side of the fence and I really don’t understand what pressures a PR deals with. But I know that if they have to interface with journos and editors on a daily basis, there are some lessons to be learnt the right way.

Just as any journo sends his/her “questionnaire” with unrealistic deadlines that your client cannot abide by, the behavior is mirrored by PR professionals too. Spam blast emails and broadcasting “messages” at “audiences,” contacting reporters without reading their work only means sacrificing the investment in relationships for the gamble of percentages, hoping to turn big campaigns into measurable pockets of coverage and visibility.

For argument sake, if bylines are sacred to a journalist a PR professional’s career is defined by hits and coverage & whether the published stories were “on message.” So, no one can point fingers at any one.

But the one thing that we can do is adapt so that each tribe thrives in peace.

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10 Responses to “Change would be good for us too!”

  1. Vijayasarathi Vinjimoor Says:

    Hi Priyanka,

    I read your article titled “Change is good”, dated September 15th and the follow-on article titled “Change would be good for us too!” dated September 29th.

    I understand, these articles were blogged a while back, but I realized my compliments should follow - Better late than never! - right?

    Both articles were crisp, extremely well written and conveyed the messaged clearly. As a beginner in the PR field, I’m glad my colleagues pointed me to your blog and referred to your article as the golden list of Do’s and Don’ts.

    Also, you’ve found one other follower to your blog and tweets :)

    Thank you for putting out such content!

    Best Regards,
    Vijay

  2. Angie Zampaglione Says:

    Very neat blog.Thanks Again. Great.

  3. Priyanka Says:

    Series !!! That would mean a lot of ’skeleton digging from a Journos closet’….

  4. Nilesh Gajera Says:

    Agreed … carry on .. kripa is right .. this can be a good series

  5. parul Says:

    Thank you for equating the situation from both sides. Life’s demanding at both ends — clients and media deadlines

  6. Sandesh Says:

    Nice piece pri… being a PR professional for close to a decade now, totally agree with you on the following - something that I keep pushing my team here too:

    1. take the time out to read the daily at least once in your life. Figure out if the magazine/daily/TV channel presents any scope for your client and how it would interest the audience of that news medium. Is it too much to ask?
    2. Public Relations has to be much more than press releases and pitching.

  7. hema Says:

    nice….media professional nor pr have an easy life. but it is nice to see you writing a balanced word for both sides.

  8. Carson Says:

    Your piece is ‘Spot on’ in terms of messaging :-)

  9. Priyanka Says:

    thanks Kripa. Appreciate your feedback

  10. kripa Says:

    Correct — on all counts!!!! This should be a series please

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