Last night I attended Meet the Professionals, an annual event at Bournemouth University where 1st year PR students get a chance to talk with local CIPR members. One of the conversations I had related to being helpful to media and the value of the relationships being built, on both sides.
I’ve always made it a rule to answer media enquiries promptly (by which I mean immediately if the phone rings or an email arrives), even if I have to confirm that I am unable to help or give a time by which I will get back to the journalist.
So, I found this post National Post reporter has total Twitter melt down (via Judy Gombita) shocking in terms of the attitude of the PR person involved, and so many of the commentators.
Clearly not a lot of Valentine’s love going on there. In fact, there appears to be an apparent lack of understanding between PR and journalists, or a change in attitude since I was taught about media relations.
Some commentators seem to think it is okay to ignore a media call for 24 hours, or indeed, to see journalists as only worth talking with when you’ve a story to “sell”. Journalists have deadlines and don’t expect to wait long for a PR person to call back – why should they?
I’m also rather bemused by the “shock, horror” expressed over a journalist swearing at a PR person. It isn’t acceptable, or professional – and pretty stupid when recorded online via Twitter – and it certainly doesn’t contribute towards building relationships.
But, from the media’s perspective, the role of a PR person is to assist them in their jobs. Being flippant via Twitter isn’t going to win anyone any friends.
A couple of days ago, I posted about the relationship between PR, journalist and client. Would any client expect a PR person to ignore a call from a journalist? Is that an acceptable strategy even if you’d prefer not to talk to someone, eg if the story is a bad news one?
I don’t think so. Frankly, journalists have a job to do – which is to produce copy to increasingly short deadlines. They frequently need the help of PR practitioners to check facts or get quotes, etc. That’s our side of the deal – and what clients pay us to do.
The media are not there simply as outlets for organisations to get free publicity as some PR people seem to think. But, they will report newsworthy or interesting stories – especially if you have a professional relationship meaning you don’t send journalists fluff or call them with meaningless spammy calls. That’s also part of the deal.
I don’t expect journalists to swear at me – but appreciating the pressure they are under, I wouldn’t take it personally if they are short on the phone, especially if I’d been a bit slow in calling someone or promised something and not delivered (as if I would!)
It is no wonder there is a joke that goes:
Q: How long does it take a PR person to change a light bulb?
A: I don’t know I’ll get back to you on that one.
If you find that funny, maybe PR isn’t the right career for you.