April 25, 2016

A reporter's view of a PR - 1

The Top-10 things that can help both sides
   I have been planning to write a piece on the love-hate relationship between the journalists and PR for a long time. But I always hesitated, restrained myself from doing so. You are no one to pass judgments on a profession. But then I thought it's time for some loud thinking. 
   The relationship between journalists and PR professionals, by and large, is a love-hate one. Though there are exceptions, the relationship is always strained, put to test every day. I'm not trying to say that all journalists are good and epitome of great virtues and that PR guys are bad. That's not the idea. 
 I know there are black sheep on either side of the fence and that some of them are habitual trouble makers.
  The idea is to ponder over the things that pit journalists against the PR and vice versa. I always believe that a PR is a facilitator, nothing more nothing less. I have read a few articles in the recent past on this subject -- mostly from the PR perspective. I found them insufficient in portraying the full picture.
  What's that a journalist hates most? Some friends in the PR industry often pose this question and I have shared some of the following ideas with them over a period of time. This is only compilation of such thoughts.

1) Story ideas.

 More often than not a PR calls from nowhere (means other cities) to suggest a story idea.

"Sir, there is a story idea where our clients are willing to share their views," a PR would say.
He or she, actually, has crossed the line. The idea and inputs -- all bundled into one! Or, buy-one-get-one offer!

2) CSR stories.

Several business reporters hate to write CSR, goody-goody stories about corporates. It may be a great thing for the corporate to start this or that CSR activity but it is of no consequence to the reader.
As long as your client refuses to give a 'corporate' story, reporters won't show any interest in the stories that are meant to building the image.

3) One-on-one's on the day of the press conference.

This is one of the oldest PR habits. Picking one or two reporters (obviously representing top publications) for exclusive one-on-ones on the day of a PC is a very bad idea. It might work for both the PR and the corporate in question, but it leaves a bad taste.

4) Citing reports appeared in a publication

Giving clippings of a report appeared in a publication in the press kit is repulsive. No one loves competition. I experienced it myself when the spokesperson referred to an article published in another paper.

5) Give a heads up

 It's a good idea to send an SMS to the beat reporter, giving a heads up to a major announcement, news, statement (though it goes against the client's interest), release of results or visit of a top executive.

6) No fair weather relationship

I see some PRs simply go into flight mode whenever something major happens. They don't answer calls (even after factoring in reasonable time lapse), don't reply to mails. This really pisses off the reporters. Reporters work against strict deadlines and today is the most sacred day for them to file the story. Tomorrow is another day.

7) RSVP 

If a PR firm/corporate assigns an RSVP number, it must work till the event lasts. A, RSVP not answering calls does more harm than it helps. An RSVP number must be a mobile no, not the landline.

8) Dropping names

Some PRs tend to drop names of big people and refer to their association with top reporters and publications. I'm not saying they don't know them. They might have really known them very well but it won't really serve any purpose. A reporter works at his/her own pace and he/she won't appreciate the veiled arm-twisting/brow-beating methods and I-know-your-boss well attitude.

9) Don't pit one reporter against another, one bureau against another
Some PRs tend to pit one reporter against another, particularly in the same bureau and counterparts in different bureaus of a publication. This is really irritating. If a reporter refuses to write on a subject in a city (to avoid controversial, questionable firms), PRs try contacting a counterpart in a different city to sell the idea.
This ploy might work once or twice but when the publication realises this trick, it might impose a permanent clamp on that firm.

10) Exclusives

 It is quite common for PRs to set up 'exclusive' meetings with reporters. I know how this works. We get some, they get some. Fair enough. But the moment of truth is when a big shot comes to the city. If you set up a meeting with one or two publications, remember you have just earned more enemies than friends. You must remember that you have more than one client and that you will have to face the reporters you barred from an interaction.

  I know PRs, sometimes, act under pressure from the clients. But that's not a reporter's headache. He is not someone to take it light, when a PR/firm excludes him/her.

(The list is not exhaustive. Will try to write a couple of more pieces some time later.)

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