While away chatting with a journalist last Thursday night at the official launch event of The Sebel Surry Hills, he put forth the comment “there are good public relations practitioners and there are bad public relations practitioners – nothing in between”. Michael Jackson’s lyrics suddenly come to mind. This comment couldn’t be more ‘black and white’. However I found my head nodding profusely in agreement.
Why is that journalists often shudder when they hear the two words ‘public relations’ echoing down the phone line? In my opinion, there are simply too many PR practitioners missing the mark out there, subsequently smearing a dirty mark on the industry’s reputation with the media.
Take these comments for example. Dynamic Business editor and blogger, Jen Bishop often gets frustrated by pestering PR practitioners: “All I want for 2009 is for PR people not to call me every time they send a press release to see if I received it. I mean, if I didn’t, it would have bounced back, right? If I was interested, I would have replied, and if I wasn’t, well, that’s why I didn’t get back to you! End of”.
British business journalist Dan Martin, is completely fed up with receiving irrelevant PR material that he decided for two days in February he would only accept pitches via the social network Twitter: “If this two-day experiment works, I may well extend it and say goodbye to having to clean out my inbox and listen to irrelevant voicemail messages on a daily basis!”
When journalists start requesting a 140 character ‘tweet’ rather than receiving a media release – something has to be going wrong.
Personally, I believe there really should be no excuse for public relations practitioners landing themselves on the wrong side of the media. If a PR consultant puts in the hard yards before hand and:
researches the media and specific journalists thoroughly, knows their deadlines, particular interests, stories covered in the past, etc.
compiles a well written and newsworthy media release
prepares all additional material and spokespeople before sending the release
sends the release within an appropriate time frame only to targeted and relevant individuals
responds to media requests efficiently and promptly
refrains from contacting media without a specific purpose to their call (“did you receive my release?” doesn’t count!)
THEN and ONLY THEN will PR material sent to journalists become regarded as valuable information – and not simply the next victim of the inbox ‘delete’ button.
Journalists and PR practitioners can be friends. But it requires the players on the PR team to continuously work at finding out what the media wants and then, never stop putting in the hard yards to deliver. Only then the partnership will flourish.
People working in the PR industry and journalists – I would love to hear your thoughts on this one?
– Gemma Crowley
I can’t believe that I’ve been working in PR for nearly 21 years. I started out as a very green communication graduate in February 1987 as a junior consultant with Vion-Rutzou which later became Edelman and worked my way up to senior consultant level with Dennis Rutzou PR.
In 1993 I decided it was time to try something new and moved to an in-house role with Panasonic. This led me to a number of in-house roles including Dick Smith Electronics, Woolworths, Integral Energy and now back with DRPR. So I feel I’m quite qualified to talk about the difference between consulting and in-house.
Both have their merits and drawbacks which I plan to share with you.
Because I’m currently working as a consultant I’ll start with the benefits of hiring a PR agency like DRPR.
Our number one selling point when we are talking to prospective clients is our objectivity. As we are outside a client’s organisation, we can offer them a unique perspective. When you work inside an organisation you tend to be blinkered and, in some cases, a bit indoctrinated. So you can find it impossible to be objective.
Another major benefit of outsourcing to a consultancy is that you can hire someone (or a team) with more experience for the same budget. For example, if you were paying your consultancy $85,000 per year you’d be getting a senior PR person with up to 20 years experience, backed up by one or more junior level consultants. If you hired an in-house PR Manager for $85,000 per year you might get someone who had say five to seven years experience.
There are of course benefits to hiring an in-house person. They can absorb the company culture and have more accessibility. When I worked at Panasonic I became the organisation’s key resource for company history and the person who was called upon when no one else knew the answer.
An in-house person is also available to the organisation full-time so they don’t have other clients to command their attention. Having said that, they are still entitled to four weeks annual leave and at least five days sick leave so if you only have one PR person, you’ll have to do without them sometime during the year.
Often a compromise that many organisations settle on is hiring a relatively junior in-house PR person who is backed up by a more experienced agency. This scenario cashes in on the benefits of both consultancy and in-house and can work well for many companies.
Either way professional communication is something that most organisations need on an ongoing basis or at least from time-to-time so give us a call if you want to talk about how you can enhance your company’s image.