Thursday, April 17, 2008

The things reporters hate about us

After a small town news conference years ago I headed straight to the organization’s director as she left the podium so I could ask a few questions. It was late in the day and I was ready to get back to the office and file my story. This happy, smiling woman with perfect hair and makeup comes from the side and blocks me. Yes, it's the organization’s PR woman. She wants to help me and give me the most generalized information possible while her boss glides away. She couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to talk to her. That’s “news blocking” just like a jock stealing a dance from the geek.

I asked a couple of my news friends if they would help us understand what not to do. Here’s what they said. I won't reveal their names because they don’t want YOU do be mad at them. Shhhh….see, they need us too:

From a Georgian photojournalist:
“I hate it when after an event the PR person calls or emails me and EXPECTS the rights to the photos I took, to use for marketing. That drives me crazy. Not only do we not release the photos (which are the property of the newspaper) for use in other publications, but even if a person or organization wanted copies of the photos they still have to pay for them. Our paper uses an automated system for archiving and selling the photos, but it seems like the PR people never believe me when I tell them that!”

Pet peeve highlights from a southern daily newspaper editor:
“1. Please do not send me the same e-mail six times OR one that has 10 jpegs attached to it. This clogs up my inbox and makes it hard for me to send you an e-mail telling you as much.
2. I understand persistence and follow-up, but please do not call me every day or have someone else from your agency call me every day to ask if we are going to come out and cover something. If I told you we will consider it, I mean it. But calling me everyday makes me consider it less.
3. Learn how to take no for an answer. It is not that we don't want to help your organization, but sometimes it's a manpower issue. Also, if we have done three or four features on your group in the same month, then it is likely that your fifth request will be denied. We have to make sure that no one group is getting more coverage over another, and frankly, that is what your newsletter is for.
4. Don't call the publisher. Nothing makes an editor madder than when someone goes over their head to ask the publisher if a reporter can come out and cover something in hopes of getting a "yes" answer. Would you like it if I in turn called your boss to tell him/her that since you didn't call me to ask for coverage (especially when you know I am your contact), I will now only deal with them?”

PR people, tell us your horror stories or tell us what worked for you. News people, what grates your nerves?


Anonymous said...

Having worked as both a reporter and now a PR person, I can honestly say the thing that bugs me most is what I call a trained PR hack. They've never been a reporter. They don't get how the media works, what they need or how to work with them and they likely never will. That's why, now that I'm a boss, I only hire people for my office with media experience. That way, they know exactly what reporters despise about PR folks and don't repeat the same mistakes. It has worked well to this point.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what the first day on the job is like for a former PR person turned reporter.

Anonymous said...

As a newspaper reader,
1) I think an editor's interest in "balancing" coverage among various organizations undermines a publication's ability to provide news to the public. When an organization has news - it has news. When it doesn't - it doesn't. News should not be suppressed or embelished in order to "balance" coverage to be fair.
2) As for the relationship between PR Reps and journalists, each are trying to do their job. Journalists - quit whining. The PR folks are giving you news which leads to readers which leads to income which leads to your job. PR Folks - just because you say something is news worthy, you know, or should know, that is not always the case and should be ready for rejection. C'est la vie.

City Sights and Observations said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. We PR folks should also be careful by not bombarding the news person with releases (or poorly written release) where she says, "Oh, it's from so and so again." And they delete it. We have to be more selective.

We'll have to keep track of our organization's trends and people stories. And then call just the right media outlet. :) Then hopefully, someone will remember us and come to our next photo op.