Open Letter: 5 Things We Really Want PRs To Know
Dear PR folks,
We don’t hate PRs. In fact, many of us have friends working as PRs. But on particularly busy days, we have to admit, PRs can be a bit trying on our patience. Yes, journalists aren’t the easiest people to get along with. Yes, we know you have your clients to answer to. And yes, we are grateful for all the interviews and quotes you get for us – without PRs, our stories would often take a lot longer to do. It’s a love-hate relationship.
And, today, we just want to highlight five things that we wish PRs would stop doing. Because, to be really honest, the relationship between PRs and journalists can certainly be a lot better.
1. Don’t ever ask, “Is this a good time to call?”
Well, if it wasn’t, would we have answered the phone in the first place? Asking such a question puts the journalist on the spot – basically, there is NEVER a good time to call. And since by some weird stroke of luck we saw, and responded to, that blinking light on our phone, tell us what you want in 30 seconds. These niceties are nice but absolutely unnecessary.
2. Media tracking is your job
You sent your press kit over? Okay. You called and managed to get an editor on the phone? Cool. You want to ask her when she’ll be featuring your stuff? Hold it. Don’t. It’s really annoying. We don’t know when we are going to feature something. Honest! Sometimes we do and we give an answer, in which case, it’s fantastic. But if we say we don’t know, please just leave it as that. Asking if you could call back in a week’s time isn’t going to make things any better. In fact, we would be tempted to say, “Why don’t you just read the magazine? Isn’t that part of your job?” We don’t like to be mean but editors really do have better things to do than be your intern.
3. We are not our colleagues’ secretary
When you call to ask if we can attend an event organised by you, we return the courtesy by saying Yes or No. That’s all that you should expect of us. To ask if we know if our colleagues are attending … that’s just … pointless. (1) If we were sending someone in our place, that person should have already RSVPed. (2) If nothing is said about someone representing us, just. Drop. It. We don’t go waving invitations around the office asking who would like to go for such-and-such event. Everyone takes care of her own schedule so it’s rude to ask if we know anything about another person’s calendar. We are really not helpful that way. If you need to check up on another person’s RSVP, put the phone down and call the main line again and ask for that person.
4. Friday evening is a bad time for events
You and your clients probably don’t want to hear this but yeah … we work hard all week and we really want to spend our Friday evenings with our loved ones. Sometimes, we do attend events held on Friday evenings but if we don’t, it would be appreciated if you don’t push us to change our minds. We know that attendance is important for any event but please know that in this age of poor work-life balance, any time we get after Friday 6pm is preferably me-time. Oh, this applies for Saturday and Sunday events too. I mean … what were you even thinking?
5. Find out if a journalist prefer to be contacted on the phone or via email
We admit we are a bunch of inconsistent, fussy, hard-to-please species. But some PR firms got it right from the start. A PR firm – which we shall not name – keeps a spreadsheet that details every single journalist’s personal preference. If she has said in passing that she prefers an email over a phonecall, it will never call her. If she has said she does not read a press release in Times New Roman font, it will change the font of its press releases before sending them out to her. Of course, there are other faux pas that have been committed before … such as, spelling the name of the journalist wrong, getting the name of her publication wrong, or even sending your press kits in a bunch to one writer and expecting her to play mailroom clerk for the rest of the company. We are pretty sure the most successful PR professional (which is really 70 percent of the industry) will never do something like that.
Please note that this letter is not written to humiliate any PRs or make your jobs any harder. This is written based on the many conversations we’ve had with other journalists and public relations practitioners.