Postings from the Edge

Global PR, new PR, social media and printing ink

Friday, 2 November 2007

Bad PR or lazy journalists?

This has not been the week to be in PR. Chris Andersen, author of the Long Tail and editor of Wired, unleashed a tidal wave of complaints and counter reaction by publishing a list of emails belonging to PR people who didn't pitch him in the right way. The post created 300 comments, some agreeing, some disagreeing.

While I agree with Chris in much of what he says, PR bashing is too easy to do for journalists.
I spent 10 years as a trade journalist, before emails really took off, so I can count myself lucky in that. My best friend during that time was a rubbish bin and a red pen. The rubbish bin speaks for itself. Crap press releases weren't invented with emails - they have always been with us. And it is still just as easy to get rid of them.

The red pen was to improve the press releases that were sent. When I was training as a journalist there were two golden rules: never put a release in unaltered, and never print it without ringing up for further information. As far as I can see that doesn't happen anymore.
It isn't the job of the PR person to write the story. The PR person should alert the journalist to the story and then help them get the facts and then get out of the way.

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times in the past three years a journalist has followed up a press release with a call for an extra quote or an angle more specific to their industry. Many have become lazy. They choose the obvious stories and ignore those that need time or thought. That's not good for journalism or PR.

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