Oh, for goodness sake, are we never happy? For years, journalists have moaned about PRs getting in the way of a good story - what with their press releases and pesky phone calls - but now it seems we’re feeling ignored and unloved.
A new survey from Energy PR claims that journalists feel neglected during the pandemic, with one in four complaining that not a single PR has made contact - not even to check up on an irrelevant press release, let alone their health. Guys, I thought we were friends!
It seems that roughly half - 53 per cent - are getting less PR attention than normal. Perhaps that’s why they’re being so picky about the contents of their in-box: one in four complain that the quality of releases is just not what it once was.
And to make matters worse, one in five think you’re either not trying hard enough to be creative or that you’re just not doing anything different these days. I mean, why - why - does all the news have to be about a pandemic? Perhaps it’s time to sail that statue down the Thames?
Energy PR recommends that PRs and comms teams should seize the moment. They claim that 88 per cent of respondents ‘actively’ want you to pitch feature ideas to them... pah, they say that now. Let’s see how they feel after 100 PRs take them up on the invitation!
Not to be beaten, CorpComms Magazine has conducted its own survey - of one, admittedly - and here are the findings. I think they’re pretty solid - as the respondent agreed 100 per cent.
Unless it is a market (or time sensitive) release, embargoes should be consigned to the annals of journalism history, along with faxes and Friday night drops. It is an anachronistic tool in a world of 24/7 media. Most sensible organisations get this with the exception of... you’ve guessed it: PR agencies. I don’t know why PR agencies, particularly boutique ones, insist on adding embargoes to press releases about new hires or client wins. If the contract isn’t signed, don’t tell us. If it is, then release the ‘news’. Giving journalists three days to write the story won’t make it any more exciting. Trust me. (Or better still, don’t tell me at all: I’m never going to write about it.)
Don’t send a email offering an interview with your client, only to rescind the invitation as soon as it is accepted. I get it. You promised them a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist but you ended up with a hack who once won a colouring competition in the Uxbridge Gazette (what can I say: I was a whizz with felt tips.) And they said: ‘No thanks’. It might just be more politic to assess their requirements before issuing invitations.
Don’t sell old stories
Here’s the thing: I can read. I’ve seen your story on the inter-web thingummy. So why then call to pitch me the same story a day later? The ‘Oh, they managed to get the scoop?’ excuse is never going to fly. You made an executive decision, fine. But live with its repercussions. When I worked for the City section of the Daily Telegraph, if a story was first given to another paper - unless it was a corker - we either ignored it or shrank coverage to a NIB (News in Brief). We wanted to operate on a level playing field, on which we were confident we would succeed: not one skewed to the competition.
Blanket release bombing
You send a release, and a follow up email to check if there is anything more I need. (There isn’t, so I don’t respond.) The next day, your colleague sends the same release, followed by her follow up (and identically worded) email to check if there is anything more that I need. An hour later and it’s time for you to send a further follow up email to follow up on your first follow up email to check whether I need anything else. The next day, a new tactic. The release is rejigged - with a different intro but same conclusion - and resent. And so begins the follow up email merry-go-round until finally I ask, nay plead, that this Groundhog Day episode ends - and I retire to a darkened room.
Even more irritating and pretentious than embargoes. ‘How can I make sure that this gets the journalist’s attention? I know I’ll say it’s of ‘High importance!’ They’ll have to check.’ I’ll tell you what it does get: a quick press of the delete button.