Friday, 21 April 2006

PRogress-PReventing PR PRactices

Last night, the signature on my MSN was this:

"PR Agents who don't answer their phones should be shot, drawn, and quartered"

Yesterday was pretty frustrating, calling people to set up a photo shoot, getting everything ready, only to run into ONE idiot PR agent who kept her handphone OFF, thus hampering the progress of everything.

PR agents and journalists are like bread and water: they don't really taste good together, but they are brought together a lot. PR agents need journalists to help publicise their products/events; journalists need PR agents for info about said products and events so we don't get into trouble later for publishing the wrong stuff.

Now, I've met lots of nice PR people who actually ARE nice, and I have no problems wiht them. It's so much easier and so much more professional when a PR agent gives good and well-written press releases, can give us info promptly, and doesn't stall when quick decisions are needed.

HOWEVER, I've also met a fair share of rather incompetant PR people. THESE are the ones who journalists bitch about during tea-time, who complain about, and who we tear our hair out about most of the time.

Here are some of my pet peeves when it comes to dealing with incompetant PR agents:

1) Badly written press releases - Look, stop trying to show off your vocabulary of bombastic (and useless) words that you can't even use in the correct context, stop trying to feed us unnecessary 'facts', and for gods sake keep the damn press release short and sweet PLEASE! And at the very least, GET YOUR GRAMMAR RIGHT. (I have a file full of really badly written press releases in a folder called 'Keepers'. Sometimes I take them out and read them when I'm in need of a good laugh.)

2) Not answering your phone, not replying emails - I won't blame you if you turn off your phone after office hours or during a movie, but FOR GODS SAKE, you're a PR agent, you have an urgent event to promote, the journalist needs to be in touch with you URGENTLY, and what happens? You turn off your phone for half the day? Grrrrrrrrrrr........

3) Trying to manipulate the journalist into writing what you want them to write - Right. I know you are obligated to get as much publicity for your client as possible. And I know that you sponsored everything for me to come and cover the event. That doesn't mean I'm gonna write an entire ADVERTORIAL for you. People have to PAY for that, you know. What I CAN promise you is to that I will give the story what it's worth. Give me a good story or a good interview, and I'll listen to what you want. No guarantees though...

4) Bugging the journalist every other HOUR to find out when the story is coming out - Yes, I know you're stressed, and I know you're anxious to see the results of the event/promo that you just sent me for. But dude, you don't have to wear out my mobile battery just to find out when the story will be published, ok?

5) Asking me to "Go to the website" when I'm trying to get additional information - Look, if I could get what I wanted from the website, I would have gotten it AGES ago, and wouldn't have to call YOU, would I?

Will add more when I think of more.

For the record, this post is not aimed at any particular PR agent. Some of my good friends are in PR. Some even came from PR to become a journalist. And some whom I've met on the job are really nice people who give me correct info whenever I need it, who never stall, and are always honest with me.

No, I'm ranting at those little drops of sour milk that make the whole PR industry look bad. Those who lie abotu their events just to get the journalist to come, who can't even be bothered to run their press release throug ha spell check, who look down on us 'lowly reporters' whom they think are there to make THEM look good, those who try to manipulate us into writing what THEY want us to write, and those who just look pretty and have nothing in their heads besides thinking about the leftover freebies they will be hoarding after the event.

Public Relations indeed. HAH!

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