PR People – We’re Not the Bad Guys

Sometimes PR people can get a bad reputation.

And sometimes, it’s warranted… We’ve heard more than a few stories from journalist friends who have told me nightmare stories of PR types stalking them incessantly, often with story ideas that just don’t fit their outlet (note:  That’s why we call it ‘Targeted Lifestyle Communications’).

Many times though, PR people can take the blame as being the bad guy and it’s really not our fault.  Once, at a  friend’s wedding, a budding young journalist from a glossy magazine said to me “I never use PR people.  They’re worthless.”  We’ve got some case studies that say some journalists find BBPR a valuable resource, but we understand her point.  Anyway…

If you’ve ever worked in the tech industry, you’re probably familiar with a site called Tech Crunch.  If not, keep reading, there could be some things applicable to your industry.

It seems a while back Michael Arrington had some issues with one of AOL’s senior PR people – basically he didn’t get the information he wanted, when he wanted it.

Media Bistro tells the story here.

As you can see, he’s pissed.  But is it really the PR person’s fault?

Maybe.  But maybe not.  PR typically people don’t get into the industry to become executive level information bouncers, only giving out information to the good looking journalists or those that slip us a Benjamin.

It’s the job of PR firm, consultant, etc, to advise the client on strategy and direction, as well as execution.  However, even though we’re often the gatekeepers of information, it’s not always our decision when to withhold it or not come through when a journalist has a request.  Many times, we just have to do what our clients ask.

At BBPR, like many smaller PR shops, we really try to go out of our way for journalists.  Late night calls?  No worries.  Advice on a story where our clients won’t be featured?  Happy to help, but you owe me a beer at the next show.. maybe.  But sometimes, our hands are tied.

The following situations happen from time to time and it’s typically not the fault of the PR person, regardless of if it’s an internal employee or external representative:

–       We can’t come through with the information you want.  Can’t… not won’t.  Maybe a client doesn’t want to be in your magazine, the request is too last minute to accommodate or a brand doesn’t like the way their competitors have been portrayed on TV.  Regardless of the reason, if we’re told by our bosses ‘no’, then the answer is no.

–       Things can be unavailable.  Unfortunately, in product PR, this happens. Before beginning a project that is product related, try to know for certain we can source something if a request.  But things happen and despite what our friends think, the BBPR office does not have a back room filled with snowboards, sneakers, eco-friendly teak furniture, beer or defibrillator pouches.

–       Time is short and PR people need it.  Fed-Ex in Vermont and San Diego does not leave as late as it does in NYC… if you call at 7 PM on a Friday and need something shipped to a shoot for Monday AM, we may not be able to come through.  Executives that you want to interview need it too, and due to personal or professional obligations, they may not be available.

–       We have to pick and choose.  I’d like to say that all journalists will receive the same level of respect and hustle, but that’s not always feasible.  If it’s a hectic day due to a new product announcement or something else, the reporter from USA Today is going to get preferential treatment over the editor from the local weekly newspaper.  It’s unfortunate, but that’s also why in these instances, we try to put out as detailed press materials as possible.

So journalist friends, please keep in mind that while PR people are often the gatekeepers of the info you seek, we often need to call the man in the back before we open the door.

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~ by doubleb on April 14, 2010.

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