The problem with PR

Some say “sales” is the natural born enemy of the journalist and let’s face it; we’ve all had a whinge about some of the credit lines/sponsorship tags that we’ve had to read out. But journos, on the whole, are pragmatists and recognise sales are a ‘necessary evil’ ..(tongue firmly in cheek).

No, it’s NOT sales that get under our skin – it’s PR agencies.  Or, more accurately, the PR ‘grunts’ who are tasked with pitching stories to newsrooms.

No doubt it’s a thankless task.  Demanding clients want results for their spend. They want airtime and they want column space.  They want their product mentioned in the news, regardless of their suitability.

It must be soul destroying being told ‘no’ all the time, but it’s often a situation of their own making.

Some advice for those grunts, who have to do the ring around each and every morning.  Advice, also, for their bosses.

1. Anyone can check if the email has arrived.

I can’t count how many times a PR person has asked specifically for me, when checking if their precious email has found its way through the ether and landed in the newsroom inbox.  Trust me, anyone can ‘click and check’.  Maybe you need to tick off a name as part of the report back.  I don’t know.

There was one time when they insisted they had to speak to me, despite being told that I was in a closed-door meeting.  No, it was important.  They had to speak to me.   And it was to see if I got an email. Give me strength.

What did I do?  I rang the agency, asked to speak to the GM.  He was in a meeting?  No, I HAD to speak to him.

When he answered, I asked him ‘how did it feel to have a meeting interrupted for something that wasn’t important?’  Strangely enough, we never had that problem again from that agency.

2. Check the time.

Look at the clock before you dial. You will not get a positive response if you’re calling minutes before news time or as the news airs.  I might say politely “I hate to cut you off, but we’re in news.  Call back later”.  Or I might say “No.  Call back later”.

3. Know the audience

We get pitched some inane stories that have absolutely NO relevance to our audience.  Sometimes it has no relevance to ANY audience.  This one for the PR bosses: please don’t.  There is no point in wasting your time and our time with stories that have no relevance

4. Know your duopolies

Most radio newsroom mergers happened years ago. By years ago, I mean the mid 90s.  There is no excuse for outdated contact lists.  So many times, we get a call about a story.  Only to get the same person call seconds later, not realising it’s a combined newsroom

5. One call is enough

Another annoyance. Please don’t nag.  One call is enough.  You don’t need to make multiple follow up calls.

6. Please don’t make us jump through hurdles

So many times, we will get a media release with no contact number.  Clearly the idea being, the PR agency wants to ‘manage’ the process.  But you know what, that extra layer is more likely be a hindrance to the story getting a run.

7. Be aware

There are days when there is so much news happening, we cannot fit another story in – even if we grease the sides and try to shove it in.  If the story you’re pitching is ‘generic’ with no time crunch, consider holding it back

8. It’s a pic opp, not news

It sounds obvious doesn’t it?  Radio news has very little need for pictures.  Please don’t email us about a photo opportunity, unless we are able to fire off a few questions.

PR is an important part of the news cycle.  We do get some great stories from agencies.  However, they do themselves a disservice by not understanding the beast better.

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