A few weeks ago, @fida wrote this brief piece about the relationship between PR people and journalists. For the longest time I imagined the relationship between PR and journalists as being like a Nutella sandwich. The pieces of bread represent the journalist and the client, and the lovely sweet sticky Nutella in the middle is the PR, helping to keep everything happy and together. But over the years I’ve discovered that this is a terrible lie and in fact the Nutella is actually a thick layer of Vegemite.
The only reason for my “sandwich-turned-sour” analogy is because I’ve had such a mixed experience with PR people in my life. There are some wonderful, truly magical days where the stars are aligned and I can have a truly wonderful day interacting with PR and facing absolutely no issues at all. But on those other not-so-glamorous days, I’m left pounding my head on my keyboard in frustration until QWERTY is permanently etched in my forehead. I’m certainly no PR expert myself, but there are certain things that just keep cropping up on an almost weekly basis that I just had to write about them in the hopes that someone else can shed some light on them.
So here boys and girls, is my list of totally baffling PR things:
“Save the date” emails: I know that PR people feel that journalists are super-busy (most of the time we are) and need to know in advance of when an event is happening, but these “save the date” emails are getting a bit old. Your client isn’t getting married, so telling me to block out a date in my calendar without actually telling me what the event is for is going to just get you a blank look. “No sorry, I can’t share any more details or the timings or client name, but it’s going to be a super exciting event and we are sure that you will love it!” (an actual reply from a PR company)
Not knowing who I actually work for: I get it. PR people are overworked and deal with a million clients and journalists on a daily basis. But if we’ve emailed each other before and met at least once, I would think that you would at least try to remember which company I work for, instead of introducing me to your client at an event and proudly saying I work for company X, when I have to correct you right in front of your client. Resting Bitch Face? Nailed it.
Calls after emails: I’d like to think that email was invented so we wouldn’t actually have to go through pointless phone calls. Just drop over a quick email and wait for a reply – that’s it. But what seems to be an alarming norm is to receive a phone call from a PR person to check if I got their email or not. If your email didn’t bounce back, then there’s a 99% chance that it got delivered and is sitting in my Inbox, waiting for me to get to it. If it’s an email that I don’t find useful or appropriate, I will either delete it or shoot a quick one-line saying “no thanks”. If you call me, I will then spend the next eight minutes on the phone with you describing exactly why this press release isn’t going to be published. Your call.
Round-robin the office: If I email you back to say that I’m not interested in a particular press release, that doesn’t mean you then email or call my other colleagues to try and wrangle them into publishing it instead. Chances are that the answer will be the same, but if you’ve got time to kill then go crazy.
Mail Merge: Sending a personalized email to each and every journalist would be a huge task, so the easiest and most effective way to email a press release is of course via BCC or a mail merge. While I am completely fine with this, at least put my name in the body of the email. For the record, my name is not “,” or “$FIRST_N”. And don’t try using that “Recall” option in Outlook – it doesn’t work.
Rescheduling: For everyone, time is precious. So if you call me to arrange an interview with your client and I accept, I expect it to happen on that date and time. What I don’t expect is for you to call me 45 minutes before our appointment to try and reschedule. What’s even worse is when I agree to the reschedule, you call again on that day to fix a new date. Sorry, but two strikes and you’re out – get your client to sit their ass down in one place for fifteen minutes and then give me a call.
Sending useless releases: There are PR people who email press releases based on their target audience, just because they know that there’s a greater likelihood of it being read or published if it’s something that publication can use. On the other hand, there are other people who email out press releases for no particular reason at all. A new power strip that has USB ports? Send a press release! Client participating in an upcoming tech exhibition? Send a press release! Sales increased by 0.000009% from last year? Send a press release!
Sending emails about upcoming press releases: If you’re going to email me to let me know that a press release is coming next week – don’t.
Using me as a body count: This is something that has been happening a bit too often with me – I receive an invitation to an event that I’m not really interested in going to, and when I politely decline, the PR person says “Oh that’s okay, just come along anyway and fill up a seat. Are you bringing a +1?” I AM A PERSON, NOT A MANNEQUIN.
However before I end this post, a disclaimer. There are some truly amazing PR people out there who work their asses off trying to pacify clients who have no real idea or clue about PR. There are also I’m sure some journalists out there who drive PR people crazy as hell, so if you’ve got a PR or journalist story to tell, post it in the comments below!