Ok, so this one genuinely confuses me. Over the years it has puzzled me but I still can’t figure out why PRs do it. Recently I’ve started asking other editors and journalists if they’ve had this happen. Around four out five have looked astonished and said “Yes! How weird is that? I thought it was just me. Now, why DO PRs do that?”
I’m talking about spending a fortune luring me out of my office to some fun event, taking the time and trouble to tell me about something interesting they or their clients are doing, and then completely failing to follow it up. No, more than that – on many occasions I’ve actively followed up on a discussion I’ve had with someone over lunch, at the racecourse, on the golf course, or somewhere similar, and found it almost impossible to get further information out of the PR.
Why does that happen?
As a journalist I get invited to quite a few events like that. I’m always up for going to them – it’s good as a freelance to get out of the office and meet some new people, and I’m never going to turn down tickets to see England play at the World Cup in Germany, or a golf day at the 2010 Ryder Cup course, or lunch in the Portrait Restaurant. Of course, the people who are inviting me know that they’re not buying coverage from me. They are though getting my attention and have a chance to tell me about interesting products, services, ideas, news, and so on that I might want to put in my articles. That’s why they run these events. Presumably.
So, why do they then, almost without exception, fail to follow up after the event?
(I should point out that not every PR does this. I’ve got several PRs I work closely with, where the relationship began at one of these events. I came along, had a good time, discussed something interesting, and we followed it up afterwards. But, honestly, that is the exception.)
For a while I thought it was me – maybe having met me they decide that I’m not really that important a journalist after all, and they’re focusing their efforts on the other people who were there. But then I discovered that most other journalists have the same problem.
Whatever the reason, it’s pretty annoying. Once or twice discussions at these events have prompted me to pitch ideas to titles I write for, and then, once I’ve been commissioned, I’ve had to go back to the editor and say I can’t complete it simply because the people who originally pitched the idea to me have gone AWOL. Letting my clients down like that does not make me happy. In fact it makes me very unhappy.
So, from the PR’s point of view, they’ve spent all that time and money and have not only achieved no coverage, they’ve also damaged their relationships with the people who came on it.
Now, why would they do that?