Friday, April 18, 2008

Some learnings

Its been almost four months working at DNA Money. I've learnt several things - pros and cons of working in a big organisation, evils of procrastination, perils of laying your life bare in front of the office hypocrite and some more...

Some of these learnings have been from other sources - senior correspondents, friends and family. Some of it, I've learnt myself. Listed below are some thoughts which have somehow struck a balance with I've been taught and what my conscience told me.

1. Love your parents. They're God's greatest gift.

2. Work, like there's no tomorrow. Some people will tell you, "Man, you need to relax...Man why don't you take an off...Man, why do you work seven days a week?" Fuck them.

3. Trust your gut feeling. That feeling, when you smell a story. That feeling when you know your analysis of the story is going to be better than anybody else. That feeling, when you know you can do this story better than anybody else.

4. You don't choose a story. A story chooses you. Its spiritual. Some stories are meant just for you. Within your limitations, you can do the best justice to it.

5. Nothing feels better than seeing your boss happy with your work. Don't try too hard to impress him. Impress yourself and your peers. They're the best judge of my work. Every time they see my story, it should remind them what they have missed. Don't work too hard on PR pitches, unless they're exclusive. Your peers have been pitched the same story as well.

6. Don't make close friends in office. A workplace is a workplace. Keep relations cordial. The ones who make you uncomfortable, stay away from them.

7. Associate with people whom you can learn from. Associate with people who tell you something new every time you talk to them.

8. Ask the office bitch to fuck-off. She's been taking sadistic pleasure foul-mouthing about me. Time for a reverse sweep. Stop reacting whenever she comes around.

9. I must not try hard to make too many friends. Some will be best friends. Some will be close friends. Some will remain colleagues. Others will remain mere acquaintances. Friends will come and go.

10. Just keep working. Be high on work and knowledge.

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.