Since joining Brazen a month ago I’ve been harbouring a dark, dark secret from my colleagues and I feel now is the time for me to come clean.
I may now be singing the praises of wonderful consumer PR, but just under a year ago, whilst working as Commissioning Editor on Pick Me Up magazine I wasn’t so positive. In fact I even had a list of PR peeves that I added to on a regular basis.
“Why can’t they just read the magazine before pitching?” I’d moan as yet another recipe popped up in my email (no cookery pages) or phone calls from chirpy PR’s offering us info on the latest diet (no slimming pages).
It’s no secret that journalists often view PR’s with contempt. Their errors are mocked and sneered at and they’re seen as the ones that just couldn’t hack it in the tough world of journalism.
But since taking on a number of internships and getting my job at Brazen I’ve seen a whole new side to the world of consumer PR and I have to say, it ain’t no walk in the park.
I’m not saying that PR’s have been unfairly targeted by journalists. There are some faux pas that just aren’t acceptable.
It’s bad form to email a press release to one magazine, but address it to one of their direct competitors. And any real-life journalist receiving a beauty press release when the magazine has never carried a beauty section has every right to be irritated.
But I’m now in a privileged position where I’ve worked on both sides and I now understand why the endless ’10 things I hate about PR professionals’ lists must be a real smack in the face.
I’ve written a list of 5 assumptions made about PR’s by journalists below and using my recent experience I’ve explained why I think they’re wrong.
Five myths about PR’s busted.
Myth 1. PR’s have it easier than journalists.
They’re under just as much pressure as journalists. More often than not they’re working on numerous accounts and dealing with the demands of clients and awkward journalists whilst trying to churn out timely press releases and document coverage back to clients, and that’s just before lunch!
Myth 2. PR’s think journalists are a clippings service.
This is as big a pain for the PR as it is for the Journo. Some clients pay for cuttings services and others don’t, and when they don’t it’s down to the humble PR to find that piece of coverage for their client.
Myth 3. PR’s don’t understand journalists or their publications.
PR’s are dealing with hundreds and hundreds of publications each day for numerous clients. If a PR is working on, for example, four clients in four different sectors they might need to cover national, regional and international, plus trade press, supplements, local and national broadcast , freelancers and even then there’s still online and bloggers to think about.
So if a PR calls up and asks a daft question, or requests a forward planning list, don’t be so hard on them, they’re only asking so they can target their pitches more accurately for the publication.
Myth 4. PR’s have no respect for deadlines.
PR’s understand you have deadlines. They work their socks off to try and meet them. Unfortunately many of their clients don’t. There are endless approval processes, interviewees go AWOL and spokespersons are happy to give comments – but not until next week. PR’s understand deadlines perfectly. It’s explaining them to their client that’s the challenge.
Myth 5. PR’s are failed journalists.
Believe it or not, not all PR’s initially wanted to be journalists. They actually love what they do and have a whole range of skills that journalists don’t have.
There needs to be more mutual respect between PR’s and Journalists. PR’s need journalists, and as much as they don’t want to admit it journalists need PR’s too, especially since job cuts have left a few doing the work of many.
As in any profession there are good and bad journalists and good and bad PR’s. There’s not much to be done about the bad in both, but the good ones need to start working together a bit.
If both spent a little more time understanding what the other needed rather than making snarky lists and comments about what one another do wrong, then PR’s and Journalists could be a pretty great team.
So to all the PR’s I cut off mid-pitch; To the PR’s whose press releases I didn’t acknowledge and the calls I didn’t return: I apologise. I’ve walked in your shoes for a few weeks now, and my respect for you grows and grows.
By Nikki Girvan, Account Executive