Having worked in journalism for many years I have had the genuine pleasure of dealing with PRs who know their clients, understand the broader business landscape, think about what journalists need from them, and know exactly how to deliver that in an intelligent and useful way.
Sadly, I have also dealt with many PRs who have been a right pain in the proverbials.
And I am not alone in this. Ask any journalist what he or she thinks of PRs and the reaction will vary from a slight groan or a rolling of the eyes at best, to a tightening of the jaw and a low growl at worst.
This is a problem. Journalists need good PRs as much as PRs need journalists to write good things about their clients. The two industries rely on each other, are in many ways just one industry. And yet between the two there remains a simmering enmity, an ingrained lack of trust, and a profoundly damaging lack of understanding.
So, here is my contribution to this ongoing debate – a list (to be revealed over the coming weeks) of the top ten things that PRs do to really annoy journalists. I look forward to your feedback!
NUMBER ONE: Expect us to operate as a free media monitoring service
When I first started out as a freelance journalist I did my best to respond to all these queries. When a PR called up or e-mailed and asked if the article including his or her client’s comments had been published yet, I faithfully went through my clippings, dug it out and e-mailed it over.
Then, as I got more and more work, I found I was doing more and more of this. Eventually I got to the point where I spent an entire day doing nothing other than this. At the end of the day I sat down and reflected on the fact that I had been working as an unpaid media monitoring service for all these PRs.
I was not happy.
So, now I try to get hold of articles and post them on my site as PDFs or links. I even e-mail them out to PRs in a newsletter that you can sign up to here: http://www.alex-blyth.co.uk. And when PRs call or e-mail me asking if the article including his or her client’s comments has been published yet I ignore them.
I’m sorry to have to be this, because I do understand that PRs need to show cuttings to their clients to justify their fees, and I am genuinely grateful to all those PRs who provide me with helpful interviews, quotes and information for my articles. But, at the end of the day I’m not a cuttings service. If any PR needs a reference to one I’ll happily provide it, but they shouldn’t expect me to do it for them.
In defence of the industry I will add that most people from reputable PR agencies, when I grumble about this, look surprised that anyone in their field would do this. They advise me to have no truck with it, as the PRs who are doing it should be paying media monitoring agencies to do this.
But it still happens too often. It annoys journalists and it damages the relationship between PRs and journalists.