Friday, April 18, 2008

Dealing with PR professionals

Be polite. If you do not see a possibility of a story, tell them so. If the boss has trashed the story even after you've filed, tell them so, too.

Lets face it. You get at least 10-15 calls a day in the form of invites, pitches, press releases. One can't carry all of it. And what's worse, sometimes it is coming to you after travelling through ET, Exchange4media, HT and others...

The next time a PR professional says this - Send me a list of questions that I will get answered from the client and then I shall arrange an interaction - hang up. In journalism schools, we weren't taught it would happen like this. I don't know how many journalism schools actually teach what role PR plays. Guess its the old school thought - PRs are publicists - they just make the communication longer.

Sending a list of questions is almost like leaking the question paper before the exams. And why, may I know, would the client need a set of questions about his own business? He's the best informed person and should have stats, history at the tip of his tongue. If he doesn't, then he isn't good at what he is doing and doesn't deserve to be written about.

On second thoughts, maybe the client really wants to interact openly with the media. Maybe he has stats at the tip of his tongue. Maybe the inside story is that it is the PR professional that is the snob and not the client - "Call up the journo, ask him to send a list of questions and get 'the client' to answer them one by one.." if this is the brief PR industry is giving to young PR consultants, God help them. I mean, is the PR acting as a dalaal here? A real intermediary?

It is at times like these that I feel PR has ruined that sacrosanct journo-industry relationship. The common perception is that, suddenly industry felt they need to communicate with the media in an orderly manner and they employed PR professionals. The real truth, though, seems like the industry wanted to show-off "how busy we are and you need to fix an appointment telecon". All in a manner of snobbish-ness.

All's not bad though. I've come across experienced PR professionals who have such a sound knowledge of the industry, that they know how to pitch right. Their insights are invaluable for my stories.

My heart went out to a PR lady recently who gave me her client's number - her client is a big-shot mind you - and asked me to call him up 'straight-away'. "No, you just call him up. He's not picking my calls either. Just call him. What's the point if I make it lengthier for you?" she said. I hope her breed increase.


Annkur said...

Clients want the questions upfront and want to be prepared probably because they have an impression of the media that they would twist and turn their words and use them wrongly?

there might be a little fear factor aswell ...
btw i am new to how this pr things work. But I guess the Pr agencies have contacts and relations in media which probably their client want to leverage?

Annkur said...

see this waise