To restate, this series is intended as constructive advice to those who work in PR, a job that I know can be difficult and thankless. I’ve spend a decade dealing with PRs, many very good (see here for a recent example), others not so. I’ve also spoken to dozens of other journalists about what really grinds their gears about PRs. This is the summary of that experience and those conversations. The story so far…..
Number seven is one that will surprise no one, but one that still happens far too often: saying you’re going to do something and then not doing it.
As in, “Oh yes, I can send you those quotes from our client by the close of play today”, or “Not a problem – we’ll get that case study interview lined up for you”, or “We’ve got all the data sitting here – it’ll take a while to go through it, but leave a gap in your article and we’ll send you the stat you need, and you’ll just be able to insert it before filing your copy.”
Over the years I’ve heard all these promises and more. Many times the PR is as good as their word, but all too often they’re not – the quotes don’t turn up until the next morning when the article is already filed, the case study interviewee gets cold feet, or the PR discovers they don’t actually have the necessary stat.
Why is this a problem? Is this just pompous journalists being overly critical of their PR partners?
I don’t think so. I don’t get bothered by it because I’ve been let down; I get bothered by it if it means I in turn let someone else down – specifically, if I fail to deliver to a client by the deadline I’ve been set. That really is a problem for me.
But still aren’t we journalists being a bit harsh here? After all, the PR is no doubt hoping to be able to help, is genuinely doing his or her best. In most cases they don’t deliver simply because they’ve been let down by someone else – very often the client of a client. It’s a bit harsh for journos to have a go at them for that isn’t it?
To some extent yes. No one is perfect. However, this happens too frequently in the world in PR. I think it’s the sort of over-promising and over-delivering that gives the industry a bad name and that makes it a more stressful place to work that it needs to be.
Journalists would be far happier if PRs were more realistic in their promises. If they explained that they will do their best to sort out a case study interviewee, but they don’t know for certain that their client’s client will agree to it, then the journalist wouldn’t rely on them – he or she would be able to judge accurately whether or not it was worth waiting and if it was worth the PR spending all that time on something that doesn’t work out in the end.
Am I being too demanding? Or naive even? Should journalists just accept that that’s life. People let you down. Deal with it – basically don’t rely on a PR to help you out with a job that, at the end of the day, is yours to do.
I guess so. I’m not paying for this help from these PRs so I have no right to demand that they do anything.
I know though that if I worked in PR I want to be one of the ones that journalists did trust.